Howard University recently announced that it has received a sizable endowment to build a center for women and global leadership.

According to a Thursday statement from school officials, the $1 million gift from philanthropists Jim and Heather Murren is the first step in a multi-million dollar fundraising initiative to support the interdisciplinary, student-driven institute. The Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership at Howard University will focus its work on professional programs in health, business, communications and law.

“We are extremely grateful to Trustee Jim Murren and Mrs. Heather Hay Murren for this generous $1 million gift to create the Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership at Howard University. Our students’ college experiences will be significantly enriched through this program, which will empower Black women to continue to take their rightful place as leaders in every facet of our society and the global community,” President Wayne A. I. Frederick said.

J. Jarpa Dawuni, Esq., Ph.D., a celebrated associate professor of political science at Howard, has been chosen to lead the center. Dawuni has been honored as a Fulbright Scholar and a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow. According to the release, the institute’s academic priorities will include “producing innovative and theoretically grounded research and creating a data center on issues of women and gender” in America and the greater, global Black community.

Dawuni revealed that the center will concentrate on four areas that include student-centered teaching and learning; high-impact faculty research, grant-making; community-centered service learning; and global advocacy.

“The vision of the Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership is to prepare future leaders who are gender-conscious and grounded in Black feminist consciousness through collaboration with faculty on research, service learning and global engagement,” she said. “The career pipeline project will act as a transformational strategy for opening up professional opportunities and preparing our students for leadership in their chosen careers.”

The Murrens, Howard Trustees, said they hope their gift provides "exceptional" opportunity for Black women at a time when the country's resources are stretched thin.

"This gift seeks to capture that energy, develop this exceptional talent pool and push our country forward, with women at the helm," they said in a statement. "With Dr. Dawuni’s guidance, we will work to bring this Center to life and realize the vision behind it. As lifetime investors of Howard, we know that the returns on this investment will be exceptional for Black women and for our country as a whole as we move past these challenging times.”

Since the start of the month, Howard has announced a number of programs and initiatives aimed at supporting students from marginalized communities. On Tuesday, the school announced that it is establishing a Bachelor of Arts to Juris Doctor joint degree program to offer students a cost effective start to their law careers. The six-year program will be open to incoming freshmen studying political science, philosophy, or legal communications.