Inside the office of Allison Morgan Bryant, PhD, you will find glimpses of Howard’s past, present, and future.
An "I LOVE MY HBCU" button is pinned to her graduation stole from the University’s 2001 commencement ceremony, where she earned her Bachelors of Business Administration in computer-based information systems.
"The 1619 Project," an in-depth examination of slavery’s effects on American society curated by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of Howard’s Center for Journalism and Democracy, adorns her bookshelf. "The Truths We Hold," the memoir of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (’86), can be spotted in her collection, as well.
"In a way, I grew up here," Bryant says. "I came as a young lady who was trying to figure out what things were important to me. You get the opportunity to kind of test all this stuff out here in a place that I felt was really welcoming. So it does feel a lot like home."
In her current roles as Chief of Staff to President Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA, and Assistant Vice President of Corporate Relations, Bryant’s work is elevated by her jubilant personality, natural charisma, and precise work ethic. A manifest representation of what can be for Howard’s Black women, Bryant reflected on the University’s role in the woman she is today, and the innerworkings of being the right-hand woman to President Frederick.
Bryant’s Howard journey begins before her inception. The daughter of Guyanese immigrants, her father attended Howard University and was just three credits short of receiving his Bachelors, a motivating force in Bryant’s own educational pursuits.
Growing up, her best friend’s father was a computer engineer who coincidentally worked at Howard. Bryant vividly remembers computers and coding manuals all over her friend’s home, sparking her own fascination. She subsequently enrolled at Howard in 1997, a chance to expand her love for technology and honor her father’s time at The Mecca.
"There's some level of pride and connection around walking the halls he made may have walked or the yard that he might have been on," Bryant explains. "I think people feel that in a broad sense. When they think about your Thurgood Marshalls and Zora Neale Hurstons, it feels like excellence and greatness lives here. But then, when you have that family connection, I think it resonates with another sense of pride."
Bryant initially enrolled as a marketing major but switched to computer-based information systems after completing the School of Business’ management information systems course. She was interested in data analysis and its ability to tell fuller stories about client experience and business operations.
"I think it’s a testament to the institution to say, the opportunities are endless when you work hard and are dedicated to the mission."
After graduating from Howard and working for a brief time at Accenture, Bryant enrolled in Penn State University’s Information Sciences and Technology program, earning her PhD in 2008. She returned to Howard the next year as a professor in the School of Business. Teaching, she said, was an opportunity for her to express her gratitude for the opportunities that Howard has given her, and to pay some of those opportunities forward to the next generation.
Eventually, Bryant served as the department chair for the Information Systems and Supply Chain Department, and later she became the assistant dean of Innovation and Administration in the School of Business. Bryant led initiatives such as Howard’s annual Hackathon, an event where participants interested in application development, computer engineering, and software programming can learn in a fast-paced environment.
Bryant’s transition into the chief of staff position has origins in her faculty externship with MasterCard. In that role, she observed programs with MasterCard’s innovation and digital transformation teams to strategize how the organization could recruit a more diverse talent base.
She also became acquainted with President Frederick’s former chief Paul Monteiro. He informed her that he would be transitioning the position due to his ensuing appointment as President Joe Biden’s Director of Community Relations Service. Bryant assumed the role in June 2022.
"The only chief of staff I was familiar with was on 'House of Cards,' and that guy was like a henchman, so I wasn’t sure if that was my profile," Bryant recalls with a laugh. "But we had lots of conversation over the next few months, and I got a chance to sit with some of [Dr. Frederick’s] leadership team and get a sense of what it was that they needed. It seemed like it was a good fit for my skillset from what I had been doing for the School of Business."
As chief of staff, Bryant must be a myriad of personas through the many asks from President Frederick and the University: a strategic listener, a problem solver, an organic changemaker.
"I have been beyond fortunate to have Dr. Bryant as my Chief of Staff, especially at such a pivotal moment for the University and its future," Frederick said. "She and her tireless work have been indispensable, not just to the President’s office, but to the entire Howard community."
For Bryant, no two days are the same. One day she meets on campus with Cynthia Evers, the University's Vice President of Student Affairs, to support student activities and ensure the appropriate resources are available. The next she is in Iowa, cheering on the men’s basketball team during the 2023 NCAA Tournament. On countless others, she is greeting visiting families at the Welcome Center or attending important meetings between President Frederick and dignitaries, thought leaders, cabinet members, or corporate executives.
All duties, she said, align with the success of the Bison student body, ensuring that their class and everyday experiences propel them to be their best selves. She credits her time at Howard as a student, professor, assistant dean, and now chief of staff for her capacity to relate to the needs of all students.
"Even something down to how late we are keeping the library open, I'm thinking about student health, safety, wellbeing, access to resources, all that kind of stuff," Bryant shared. "While I've had all these different hats, I think the one that resonates the most with me is being a student, and trying to make sure that stays at the forefront of the way I operate."
2023 marks 26 years since Bryant officially became part of the Bison family. Now, 11 of the 14 school deans are women, the student population is 70 percent female, and, like her, women serve across the University’s highest positions.
Bryant has now spent more time at Howard in her lifetime than she has not. It is these years of dedication, hard work, and commitment to the University that keep her at the top of her game – and makes her a shining example of what excellence at Howard can look like because of and beyond their University experiences.
"I feel like it’s an honor to have been here this long and to have seen so many things," Bryant said. "I’ve had great champions, sponsors and mentors along the way, some which are still here, some who have moved on, but I think it’s a testament to the institution to say, the opportunities are endless when you work hard and are dedicated to the mission."