Events and Expansion Help HBCUs Stretch Borders, Grow Brand

Bethune-Cookman University will soon host its inaugural women’s football clinic, giving women who actively support the MEAC football champs a chance to see football through the lens of strategy and execution, and in the process, knocking down a lot of gender-based sports stereotypes on both sides.

This kind of outreach is part of a classic trend at HBCUs finding innovative ways to grow brand and buy-in among campus constituents. While some HBCU leaders desperately search for ways to grow awareness among neutral or non-supporters, other black colleges, like BCU, are working hard to make sure their home bases remain committed.

If black colleges are to thrive against the growing appeal of online and community colleges and ramped-up recruitment efforts from predominantly white colleges, events and satellite academic programming are going to be at the heart of the renaissance. HBCUs are in the business of providing to black communities opportunities and exposure they otherwise would not have, and some HBCUs are accelerating the reconsideration of cultural and learning outreach.

Paul Quinn College in Dallas has been on an outreach blitz over the last several months, introducing new campus service learning initiatives to blend with cultural and fundraising programs that build awareness. The Tigers hosted students from Abilene Christian College in a social demonstration against poverty and food deserts. The experiment pushed racial, economic and cultural notions to the side in an effort to show community solidarity and empathy for residents of South Dallas who live the experiment on a daily basis.

Thursday, the school will host some of Dallas’ most esteemed chefs in it’s ‘A Community Cooks’ fundraiser, an event bringing the city’s culinary talent to a big cookout on the college’s ‘WE Over ME Farm’ to raise money for development and fresh food options in the region.

Alcorn State University recently announced campus expansion into the Vicksburg Mall, an innovative outreach efforts to reach potential college students, continuing learners and potential corporate partners with one dynamic planting of the Braves’ flag. The move to bolster recruitment and develop opportunities accompanies the university’s upcoming national diversity conference, a first among HBCUs, to examine cultural and social strategies to build the HBCU brand among racial and ethnic communities.

Dillard University last week capped a massive week of festivals dedicated to health, music and culture. On a recent episode of Digest Radio, Dillard President Walter Kimbrough said that the festivals are part of the HBCU responsibility to bring affordable learning and social opportunities to communities which want them, but often can’t reach them.

Nearly every HBCU has outreach opportunities which build upon new and existing visions of a better campus and better communities, but these in particular get to the heart of what is needed in their surrounding cities and towns, and to the core of their institutional strengths. BCU is a football champion, why not build the Wildcat fanbase to higher levels of acumen and frenzy?

Paul Quinn is in the middle of a food desert. Why not leverage what it yields from its organic farm in support of what citizens need around them?

Alcorn is growing its academic footprint in a state that is big on colleges, but low on opportunities at the secondary level for many students to realize college as a real option. Why not go to the places where students and parents spend all of their time, and why not make more than just African-Americans feel welcome?

New Orleans is a hot bed for arts and athletics. Why wouldn’t Dillard provide opportunities for citizens to be exposed to different sports and cultures beyond events at the Superdome and the Essence Music Festival?

HBCUs make a difference in communities when they move beyond the walls of the campus. And it’s that difference which will help make black college culture more vibrant and more necessary for advancement in the years to come.