From the Desk of President Herman J. Felton
The Historically Black College and University space has always been a site for the development of entrepreneurs, a location for consciousness-raising, and a community where leaders are nurtured. These spaces were birthed out of self-determination, where ingenuity and activism often converged to create social change. As the President of the nation’s oldest privately owned HBCU, I feel the sincere obligation to re-establish Wilberforce as an innovator in this space.
For sixteen months we have toiled in considering the impact of Wilberforce University on the community and world. We have grappled with a core question, what is Wilberforce University’s role in responding to the challenges of our time. We have explored questions such as should HBCUs solely focus on the brick and mortar classroom learning experience, or should we expand to provide an experiential learning experience that increases awareness and collaboratively immerses participants in the practice of solution building. Unquestionably, we have come to believe that we are to produce students who are invested in leaving the space better than we found it. Moreover, I believe those for whom shoulders we stand, have laid the foundation and we owe them excellence and the continual pursuit of it.
So much has happened in our world in the last sixteen months that invites leadership to (re-) consider the role of HBCUs in transforming the educational reality. As a president of an HBCU, I have grown increasingly aware that we as “guardians of the dream” must do more to equip our students for their leadership roles and rebuild our communities. The job-market, social issues, and a lack of clear direction for our communities are three areas for which our involvement is imperative. We at Wilberforce not only want to continue offering access to knowledge through our stellar academic programs to respond to these imperatives, for the generation that’s up now, we owe a clear and concise road map that empowers and engages participants in the change our world is seeking.
After much contemplation, planning, and generous grants and gifts, I am pleased to announce the establishment of The Dr. Mark and Shelly Wilson, Center for Entrepreneurship, Social Good and Transformational Leadership at Wilberforce University. The Center launches on November 8, 2017 and is designed to serve as an incubator for ideas, practices, and research that engages our students and community through entrepreneurship, social good, and develops transformational leaders.
The center’s namesake, Dr. Mark and Shelly Wilson are examples of the ways our students can impact their communities. Mark Wilson, Wilberforce University alum and Board Chairman, and Shelly Wilson, are entrepreneurs, philanthropists, who have lead extensively within their communities. The Wilsons are owners of Chime Solutions, Inc., a “distinctive customer care experience… that offers customer care to seasonal support and back office support services.” Their philanthropic reach goes beyond their Atlanta location and extends across the country. Their outstanding contribution to The Center, is another example of Dr. Wilson’s contribution to his alma mater, Wilberforce University, and his and Mrs. Wilson’s commitment to the next generation of entrepreneurs, change agents, and leaders.
Our success is genuinely tied to how we prepare for the future and we owe the generations to come a solid platform, a world where justice, truth, equality, and equity prevails. The Center is an opportunity for us to experiment, build, research, and shape our world. It is our intent to use these three platforms, entrepreneurship, social good, and transformational leadership, to inspire radical change for our students and the communities from which they come and will return. The Center is an opportunity to come together to locate challenges but more importantly to serve as an incubator for solutions. For the next year we will launch various aspects of The Center and begin the process of identifying an Executive Director. On November 8, we will launch the social good focus with “ The Gathering of the Minds” Think Tank from 9-5pm, and Community Discussion at 7pm. Internationally recognized scholars will gather for the think tank at Wilberforce University to engage in the process of Re-imagining the Educational Reality. Following the think tank, I will host a panel of current presidents, who together will guide us as we (Re-) Consider HBCUS as Solution Makers.
Aspects of The Center launch will continue in late November with the Wilberforce University Emerging Entrepreneur Road Trip. Selected students will join program faculty and entrepreneurs in Atlanta, GA to explore entrepreneurship. For more information on The Center please visit wilberforce.edu/the-center or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wilberforce University is committed to its role in preparing students for their place in the world and to ensuring that students are equipped to practice social change through entrepreneurship, social good, and transformational leadership.