Bennett College President Suzanne Elise Walsh is the latest HBCU leader to be interviewed in our President’s Corner series! As an interviewer, HBCU Buzz Founder and CEO Luke Lawal Jr. helps show a different side to HBCU presidents that we rarely get to see.
As a leader of one of only two all-women HBCUs in the nation, Walsh is a bubbly person despite holding such a high office. For example, we got to enjoy an unbelievable story as she shared her favorite concert was when Whitney Houston open up for Chaka Khan! Walsh comes from a place of really wanting her students to enjoy their college experience, so you’ll also hear her talk about Bennett’s commitment to tailored mental health and wellness initiatives, and the unique women-centered culture she has fostered at Bennett.
Bennett wasn’t always a women’s college, but if you let President Walsh tell it, she’s happy that history turned out the way it did. “I’m so curious about the culture, said Lawal. “What it is like being at an all-women HBCU, and how is it to be the president of an all-women HBCU?”
“Women are leaders all over campus, whether they are students— every student club is led by a woman, specifically a woman of color, specifically a black woman,” answered Walsh. In fact, she shared that her leadership team and even the faculty also consists mostly of women of color.
The culture is one that reinforces the idea of black women as leaders… It’s a place where it’s okay to make mistakes, because you’re not going to be judged because you’re a woman, a woman of color.”
Ironically, Bennett College was founded in 1873 as a co-ed institution. “So our football team is still undefeated,” joked President Walsh. It was a wave of the women’s movement back in 1926 influenced a change for the college to become all-women’s. It’s unique for an institution to be as ready to evolve as Bennett is.
That ability for the college, especially as an HBCU, to transform itself based on larger world events shows why Bennett is more prepared than many colleges to survive unexpected obstacles. This includes not only patterns of racial and gender discrimination, but an economic and scientific issue like COVID-19 as well.
“It continues to be important the role of women’s colleges, it’s never been more important,” said Walsh. “Specifically having HBCUs focused on women, [is] critical, given all that’s happened in the world. I think Bennett College is no stranger to radical transformation. “We’ve done it before, we’re in the midst of it yet again.”
To learn more about President Walsh, watch the full conversation here. For more President’s Corner, 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.