Today we launched an exclusive weekly digital series: President’s Corner! Our host/HBCU Buzz CEO Luke Lawal Jr. invites various HBCU Presidents nationwide to discuss the latest topics surrounding your HBCU and the Black college community. The one-on-one informative format will cover an array of hot topics, issues and initiatives of the featured HBCU. Tune in live on Facebook and Youtube every Tuesday at 12pm PT/3pm ET. You can also listen to #PresidentsCorner anywhere you get your podcasts.
Episode 1: Interview with Bowie State’s President Dr. Aminta Breaux
We are so excited to have Dr. Aminta Breaux as our very first #PresidentsCorner guest as our HBCU Buzz CEO Luke Lawal Jr. is a proud Bulldog! President Aminta Breaux is the 10th president and 1st female president of Bowie State University. Dr. Breaux joined Bowie State in 2017 and has since made it her mission to enrich the lives of students by engaging them in the learning process and pathing a path to succeed after Bowie. President Breaux talks with a deep sense of pride in Bowie’s rich history of molding leaders and she has made it her personal responsibility to carry this legacy forward. Dr. Breaux’s idea of a perfect day is when she is able to interact with students one-on-one around the campus and she can’t wait to embrace students again once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. President Breaux truly is a passionate educator. In this episode you will learn about her shared Bowie State pride with Luke, the history and culture at Bowie, her plans for the recent $25M MacKenzie Scott donation, Bowie’s entrepreneurship program, and Black History Month programming. Read more about the exciting conversation below!
On the History of Bowie + Enrollment
Luke: Tell me a little bit about the history of Bowie State. As the first HBCU in Maryland, there is so much rich history there that a lot of people don’t know about.
President Breaux: Bowie State is the first HBCU in Maryland, we were founded in 1865… to educate former slaves and ensure that they had the ability to contribute back to their communities and to have the wherewithal to lift up their families. Today we have 23 undergraduate majors, over 35 graduate and certificate programs, 2 doctoral programs and we are growing, the enrollment is over 6,200. You can share that with your family members and ask them… how many were in the graduating class. I think you’ll see a vast difference so we are changing and growing with our academic programs. We’re putting up a new building: the entrepreneurship living-learning community. It’s going to have three components including a new residence hall component because enrollment is up…we had the largest first time full time enrollment this year of any of the universities in the state system this year and we grew our first-time students attending Bowie State by 20%.
On Culture at Bowie
Luke: You know when I was at Bowie State, there are so many things that I remember… one being Bowie State will prepare you for the real world. I love Bowie, I couldn’t imagine who I would be today without Bowie State University. Tell me about your experience joining the Bowie State culture and comparing your other institutions.
President Breaux: When you come to Bowie State University you feel a part of a family, it’s a very nurturing environment… We have a very close-knit community and so it’s a very special place and it’s hard to describe until you come to the campus… Here once you get to know a person a little bit you get a big hug that makes you feel so good that you can go out and do anything… someone’s lifting you up and making sure that you’re the best person the best at whatever you’re doing here on this campus.
On Bowie’s Entrepreneurship Program
Luke: Bowie State is the reason why I started HBCU Buzz. Bowie State helped me get HBCU Buzz off the ground, it’s the understanding and commitment you guys have toward entrepreneurship. Can you tell me a little bit more about the entrepreneurship program?
President Breaux: I would love to tell you more about the program. How much time do you have? That building is to support students who are aspiring entrepreneurs but it’s more than that, it’s going to serve as that hub for accelerator businesses, to accelerate the business, to grow businesses, to serve as an incubator. We are fortunate to have the Bowie Innovation Center separate 501(c)(3) enterprise that is here on this campus presently. When we open up that new building we can have a closer alignment with our Entrepreneurship Academy that’s part of the university and it is all designed to be part of the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem. There’s so many individuals who want to start a new product, create a new business and we need to support them in those endeavors. We have hundreds of our students who are already participating in our Academy and also getting mentoring from the Bowie Innovation Center. Every student is afforded opportunities to explore their creativity, their innovation and develop those skills… Part of my vision for this institution is to make sure that they graduate with an entrepreneurial mindset and that means that they’re able to navigate with the changes and what’s happening out in the workforce in any organization. I want them to be able to provide value added benefits to an employer so if mergers and acquisitions are happening graduates will be ready to position, to think differently about how they contribute to the success of an organization.
On Bowie State Today + Partnerships + The $25M MacKenzie Scott Donation
Luke: Tell me more about what is going on today at Bowie State University.
President Breaux: Today we are continuing on… as I say racing to excellence strategic plan. That includes developing new partnerships to support students in their learning to ensure students are successful, that we have the resources we need to invest and reinvest in our academic programs, growing new programs, developing new initiatives that are keeping pace with the needs of our communities including the workforce. We are developing new partnerships with industry leaders such as Apple and Google. It’s great to see the support that is coming to Bowie State University to help us realize our vision. Those partnerships have met so very much to us and one of the great pieces of news right before the holiday and I hope you heard about it.
That is the largest gift that we’ve ever received here at Bowie State University, a private gift and that came through MacKenzie Scott. She is a true philanthropist and she gave a wonderful gift of $25 million dollars but I’m sharing that to say thank you and we appreciate that gift but what’s most important to the donor, to MacKenzie Scott was that service as a leadership gift for others to give to Bowie State University because we still have a lot of need here to build up our infrastructure.
Luke: Right now there’s obviously a big trend on HBCU and a lot of people are highlighting the wonderful things and the wonderful alumni from these great institutions. We see donors like MacKenzie giving over millions of dollars to HBCUs. I am wondering what Bowie State has done with that impact and those resources. Tell me some of the things in your agenda moving forward that will propel students in this new era.
President Breaux: First and foremost you need to make sure that students have access to higher education and here at Bowie we are focused on closing the financial gap and making higher education affordable here at BSU. That means putting a great deal toward scholarships for our students… The way we do that is by investing and putting much of those funds into the endowment. We’re able to provide scholarships at a higher level because we’ve grown our endowment. The programs that we have today may not be the programs that are going to be needed just five years from now because technology is reshaping the workforce. We need to have academic innovation… and ensure that we have the quality we need to deliver education virtually and then having what we call stackable credentials certificates, more certificates, more badges as employers are looking to enrich their workforce. Those who may have been laid off, maybe their jobs are gone now and they have to retool, re-skill and some will not need a 4-year degree. They may just need another certificate in a certain area or a badge that certifies they’ve had a certain amount of learning so we want to partner with business leaders and industries in that way.
On Black History Month
Luke: Tell me about some of your Black History Month program that’s coming up this month.
President Breaux: We start Black History Month with our convocation ceremony where we have a Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks who will be speaking. We will have symposia held throughout the week and the goal is to raise awareness about our history of course, but it’s also to anchor the learning experience in the history and to help students understand the context for what they’re learning here. So I’m very pleased that our faculty will have a number of seminars and programs to do just that.
Luke: I heard you mention legacy and when I was an undergrad one of the biggest things for me is I wanted to give back. So tell our fan base about your legacy and what you want to leave behind.
President Breaux: I hope what will be part of my legacy is that this institution will continue on providing value for generations to come, and being respectful and mindful of the history of the shoulders that we stand on, those people who came before us in 1865 that were faced with so many challenges yet they were able to overcome these challenges and create Bowie State University. I hope that Legacy that I leave behind will show that I left Bowie State University and Rich and in a better position than the way I found it. One other element to the legacy is that I am the first woman to be appointed as the president here at Bowie State University I don’t want to be the last. I hope that women, young ladies who are watching this, and wherever they are realize that they have the potential to rise to greatness and achieve their hopes and dreams. You can do what I’m doing and then some and you can surpass where I am today because you have the ability to do so.