Two Ivy League schools, Brown University and Harvard University, are actively working together to build and fortify partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) by establishing new high-level, collaborative positions. The roles are part of an effort to establish a consortium of schools to foster mutual growth, drive impactful research, and create a more equitable and inclusive educational environment between Ivy League institutions and HBCUs.
In February, Harvard University announced the appointment of Ruth Simmons, PhD, former president of both Brown and the historically Black Texas Prairie View A&M University, as its senior adviser on engagement with HBCUs. In addition to her work leading an HBCU, Simmons oversaw investigations into Brown’s historical connections to slavery. Her new role will focus on implementing recommendations from a 2022 report by the Presidential Committee on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery, which recommends the development of enduring partnerships with research-focused HBCUs. This includes funding exchange programs for both Harvard and HBCU faculty and students, along with developing best-practice frameworks and hosting HBCU gatherings.
A major component of the partnership is Brown’s recent appointment of Elfred Anthony Pinkard, EdD, as its first-ever HBCU presidential fellow. Pinkard retired from his role as president of Wilberforce University in Ohio, the state’s oldest private HBCU, this spring.
In his new position, Pinkard’s primary objective will be to strengthen and expand Brown’s relationships, leveraging the university’s existing 59-year-old partnership with the historically Black Tougaloo College in Mississippi. The Brown-Tougaloo Partnership, established in 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement, has grown into a multifaceted program that includes student exchanges, research collaborations between faculty members, opportunities for Tougaloo graduates at the medical school at Brown, and enrollment of HBCU students in Brown’s School of Public Health.
“Brown is honoring and expanding its relationship with HBCUs with the goal of partnering with these institutions as they reimagine their futures and build on their noteworthy legacy of achievement against formidable odds,” says Pinkard.
Through these efforts, both Brown and Harvard aim to create a consortium of partner schools, fostering collaborative research, faculty development, exchange programs, and increased opportunities for HBCU alums to attend graduate school at these Ivy League institutions. The partnerships will also focus on building infrastructure capacity at participating HBCUs and inspiring leadership in higher education and policy development.
“While universities like Harvard had the wind at their back — flourishing from endowments, strong enrollments, constant curricular expansion, massive infrastructure improvements, and significant endowment growth — HBCUs often had gale force winds impeding their development,” Simmons said during Harvard’s 2021 graduation ceremony. “Our nation is finally coming to terms with the consequences of the underfunding of HBCUs, but we are far from where we need to be if we are to be assured continued progress in the fight for equal educational benefits.”●
This article was published in our October 2023 issue.