How does it feel to be the first African American female to be President of Stillman College?
Stillman College was founded in 1876 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama by Rev. Dr. Charles Stillman, to educate African American ministers. In 1921 with the completion of Winsborough Hall, the first female dormitory, made the campus co-educational. In 1967, Dr. Harold Stinson became the first African American President of Stillman College, and in 2017, I became the first female leader. It’s an honor to serve this institution and its mission, that provides academic excellence and a strong tradition of preparing students for leadership and service. Serving as Stillman’s 7th President and 1st Female gives me the opportunity to make a lasting impact, creating future professionals in the arts, business, education, and the sciences.
How important do you feel the Arts are to your students and why?
The Arts, both audio and visual, contribute significantly to the culture of Stillman College. From the renowned Stillman College Choir to the Blue Pride Band, Stillman has produced many talented performers who have excelled in music, film, poetry and comedy. Student majors and minors in our visual arts programs use multiple media, paint and pencil, sculpture and collage, as well as photography and film. Last year we initiated a partnership with Arts ‘n Autism, to admit young adults on the spectrum into college. The first courses the autistic students enrolled were in art; this semester, we added social science and humanities to their curriculum.
What three things would you like to get accomplished in 2020 for Stillman College?
Stillman sits on 105 acres in West Tuscaloosa which has recently been designated in the Opportunity Zone. Private investors interested in developing real estate projects on our campus are eligible for capital gains tax credits. We are working with the HBCU Opportunity Fund to establish a training hotel in partnership with our Business School for Hospitality Management, and a Mixed-Use Workforce Housing project with retail outlets and restaurants. A third project is the restoration of Winsborough Hall, a female dormitory listed in the National Register of Historic Places. We are assessing the feasibility of converting the property from student housing into senior citizen apartments which will make Stillman the first HBCU with an intergenerational campus.
What opportunities are in place for corporate partners with Stillman?
We work closely with our Chamber of Commerce and businesses in Tuscaloosa, like Mercedes Benz US International, B.F. Goodrich, Nucor Steel, and Hunt Refinery. We also work closely with other Fortune 500 companies and the federal government, creating opportunities for internships, co-ops, and apprenticeships. Stillman was one of the first institutions to participate in the Governor’s HBCU Co-Op program.
How has the Arts enhanced your life?
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, provided me with many opportunities in the arts, music and dance. I started with piano, then violin, and participated in band in high school as a percussionist. I also sang in the choir. My love for the arts motivated the launch of the Stillman College MLK Legacy Art Walk. For 3 years, we have featured African American artists in an art exhibition at Stillman to expose the local community to the arts, but also provide our students with a forum to display their work. Featured artists included: Steve Allen, Frank Frazier, and this year, Synthia Saint James. Frank Kelly Jr. has also provided seminars and master classes for our students and Arts ‘n Autism.
What has been the most rewarding experience you have had at Stillman College?
The College President provides the vision and strategic plan and guides the current and future path of the institution. In a short time, we have moved our students and programs to being selected as a national College of Distinction, which recognizes great teaching and successful outcomes. Stillman was recognized for Business, Education, Career Development, and Diversity, as well as distinction in Alabama, as a Christian College, and overall in 2019-2020.
Where do you see Stillman College in the next five years?
Stillman has been fully accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) since 1953. Last year, our online degree programs were approved and this year we will be reaffirmed for another 10 years. New programs are being developed in the Biomedical Sciences, Cyber Security, Data Analytics, and Environmental Health & Safety. In the next five years, more graduates will be moving into careers and graduate studies in these areas of high demand and as we advance new partnerships to support our students and fulfill the nation’s needs.