For Black History Month, Howard University is highlighting the founders of niche, specialized entities that make The Mecca special grounds of education, connection and excellence.
As the founding director of the Howard University Center for HBCU Research, Leadership, and Policy, Melanie Carter, Ph.D., believes strongly in forming scholarly connections through learning.
“Teaching fuels all the work that I do,” Carter explained. “The opportunity to engage and learn from burgeoning scholars and higher education professionals elevates my perspectives and keeps me focused on why I chose to be a scholar, researcher, and administrator.”
Established in 2021, the HBCU Center seeks to serve as a generator and repository of empirical research that examines issues of significance to HBCUs through collaboration, advocacy, and a shared commitment to ensuring the 22nd century success of these storied institutions.
Carter has been a member of the Howard faculty since 2007. Initially serving as associate dean in the School of Education, she was the inaugural associate provost for undergraduate studies from 2014-2021.
Carter’s research focuses on the history of higher education institutions, specifically HBCUs and pre-desegregation Black professional organizations; the intersection of race, culture, class, and gender in higher education policy and leadership, the relationship between social justice, equity, and postsecondary access, and identifying impactful student success and retention strategies at HBCUs.
Accepting another inaugural appointment this time as director of the HBCU Center was an opportunity to integrate core facets of her research and higher education practice in the development of a center focused on HBCUs where she has spent the last 26 of more than 35 years in higher education.
“The HBCU Center seeks to be a resource for HBCU scholars and practitioners as we empirically explore, capture, and share topics of importance to us all,” says Carter.
I am excited and encouraged by the HBCU Center’s continued efforts to center, document, and amplify scholarship, policies, and practices that affirm HBCUs as beacons and generators of intellectual vibrancy and action.”
According to her, “The HBCU Center at Howard University recognizes the centrality of HBCUs to the higher education ecosystem. Whether public or private, comprehensive universities or small liberal arts colleges, located in small towns or urban centers, HBCUs have consistently served as incubators of Black achievement in the U.S. and beyond,” she says.
Under Carter’s leadership, the HBCU Center offers a variety of programs and initiatives that address and amplify critical issues facing HBCUs. Anchor HBCU Center programs include the HBCU Fellows Program and Summer Conference (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), the Lucy Diggs Slowe Institute Webinar Series, the Policy Perspectives and Positions symposiums, the SOUL of the Yard podcast, and most recently the re-launch of the online community platform, The Table: An HBCU Potluck of Research and Ideas.
Participants echo Carter’s enthusiasm for finding and connecting scholars. “Dr. Melanie Carter is passionate about supporting the work of emerging scholars of historically Black institutions,” HBCU Center Fellow Magana Kabugi, Ph.D. says, noting that Carter had attended his presentation on the impact of HBCU writing centers at the United Negro College Fund’s 2023 UNITE Conference in Atlanta and provided several opportunities to present his research findings.
In addition to leading the HBCU Center, Carter is a tenured faculty member in the School of Education, Department of Educational Policy, and Leadership Studies, and teaches doctoral courses in the Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies (HELPS) program, specifically the History of Higher Education and Black Women in Higher Education Leadership.
What to Expect from the HBCU Center in Year Three
2024 promises to be a productive one for the HBCU Center. In January, the HBCU Center hosted a special session, “Research Intensive, Student-Centered: A Framework for Undergraduate Education at HBCUs,” of the Association for Undergraduate Education at Research Universities’ (UERU) national conference. The session, held on Howard’s campus, welcomed representatives from HBCU research universities. The HBCU Center will host the opening session of the Research Association of Minority Professors’ (RAMP) annual conference on February 1.
The session will include a moderated panel that will address the conference theme, “Research that Challenges the Weaponization of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” The HBCU Center is also hard at work in selecting its second cohort of HBCU Fellows, developing an HBCU Leadership Literacy Series, launching its HBCU Student Success Models and Metrics initiative in Fall 2024, and finalizing a comprehensive strategic plan that will position it.
“Historically Black colleges and universities continue to bear fruits that shatter ceilings, glass and brick, and bear witness to the brilliance and resilience of Black people everywhere,” Carter says. “I am excited and encouraged by the HBCU Center’s continued efforts to center, document, and amplify scholarship, policies, and practices that affirm HBCUs as beacons and generators of intellectual vibrancy and action.”