Why I am Optimistic about the Future of HBCUs

Dr. Charlie Nelms headshot

By Dr. Charlie Nelms for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

When I retired from full-time university leadership a decade ago, I knew that my soul needed the intellectual stimulation, nourishment and affirmation that comes from being engaged in meaningful work, rather than simply staying busy to fill the day. Little did I know at the time that I would do some of my most impactful work as a retiree, without the stress associated with balancing budgets and navigating the turbulent waves of disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Within the past month, I have had the privilege of actively participating in two of the best national conferences of my half-century career as a faculty member and leader in higher education. Both conferences pertained exclusively to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and they were designed and executed by Black leaders who embrace the critical role their institutions play in increasing social mobility for the students they serve, while having a formidable economic and cultural impact on the communities in which they are located. Overseeing one’s own conference, rather than requesting time on one designed by others, opens unlimited possibilities relative to topics covered and perspectives advanced.