Breaking News
President Trump's Administration Invites HBCU Presidents to White House During Black History Month--A New Executive Order on HBCUs is Promised

On February 6, 2017, I had an important conversation with our UNCF Senior Vice-President for Public Policy & Government Affairs, Mrs. Cheryl Smith, regarding the President's planned agenda for Higher Education.  On February 3, President Donald Trump's Department of Education representatives extended an invitation to the Presidents of HBCUs to attend a meeting at the White House on February 27, and to meet with Speaker Paul Ryan and Congressional Representatives on February 28.

The purpose of the meeting is to confirm a national agenda for assisting HBCU's continue and strengthen their contribution to the nation's graduation rates. While only 3% of institutions of higher education in America, HBCUs graduate annually 21% of all African Americans receiving Bachelors Degrees. The Trump White House has informed us that they are working on a new and stronger Executive Order on HBCUs. The UNCF Government Affairs Office, along with HBCU partner organizations, provided input to White House staff on the top priorities for a new HBCU Executive Order, including a request to increase Pell grant funding.

I will be attending the meetings in Washington and will keep you informed of any and all developments affecting our Oakwood mission.  And by all means, please say a special prayer for the February 27 and 28 meetings.

"God Will Not Steer a Parked Car" 

At Oakwood University, my greatest prayer for our institution is that we would let God fully have the wheel. But in order for Him to lead, we have to move because, as someone has said, "God will not steer a parked car."

Across the last few years, we have personally seen God steer our institution. Just take a look as some of the accomplishments of our institution:

  • When we see that over 90% of social work majors have been accepted into graduate degree programs in the past 5 years, I know He's holding the wheel.
  • When we remember that within the past five years, 31 history and political science majors have been accepted into tier one graduate and professional schools--we know Who's holding the wheel.
  • When we see that since 2007, 92% of Education graduates are employed within six months after graduation, we know Who's holding the wheel.
  • When we learn that over 80% of nursing graduating seniors receive job offers in December before even graduating from our nursing program, we know Who's holding the wheel.
  • When we visit our student internship graduation ceremony, and see that 130 of our students have been placed in high-paying summer internships in SAIC and other Huntsville companies, we know Who's holding the steering wheel.
  • When we see that enrollment growth in the Masters in Pastoral Studies program has doubled in the past year to over 35 students, we know Who's guiding the institution.
  • When we see how out of 100 institutions, Oakwood received in 2016 the largest grant award in its history--$2.75 million dollars--to prepare our students for 21st century career success training, we know Who's holding the wheel (I will share more about our Career Pathways Initiative in future communiques).

Oakwood Farms
Industry Recovery in Action

We are convinced that God is strategically steering our institution in our industry recovery program.

Many of us remember when Oakwood operated numerous industries, when students could work their way through Oakwood, and our industries taught valuable workplace skills. In speaking to thousands of our alumni and friends annually, virtually everyone says "We need to bring the industries back." However, our 21st century industries cannot simply be a return to traditional industry because our era has changed drastically.

In 2011, we issued a leadership challenge to our University community: "We will launch plans that are destined to fail, except God intervene."  We undertook the strategic initiative to create a self-sustaining institution.  In reducing our dependency on tuition revenue, in faith we set a two-fold operational purpose:
  1. To create additional revenue streams and reduce dependency on tuition; and
  2. To develop our students' academic and workforce skills.
Oakwood Farms is designed to work in concert with the UNCF Career Pathways Grant (CP-GEM) and Healthy Campus 2020. The CP-GEM plan is creating an aligned and comprehensive strategy for facilitating students' success in matriculation, graduation, and workforce placement.  HC2020 seeks to make Oakwood the healthiest campus in America by imparting to our students intentional health management skills purposed to optimize each student's personal health status. 

Click picture to see a short video.

Oakwood Farms will design programs to support CP-GEM and HC2020 efforts in seeking to help students develop the 21st century career skills, tools, and health habits they will need to thrive and, in so doing, add measurable and significant value to their communities, employers, and our university mission. Alongside our professional farm employees, we plan to engage our students as managerial apprentices and agribusiness interns, and train them in entrepreneurship, and as health and diet educators.

We have asked Ms. Sabrina Cotton, our Vice President for Finance, to coordinate this initiative, and we have already hired Mr. Artis Sydney to lead our effort.  Mr. Sydney brings to our operation the skill sets of both a farmer and grocer. Having successfully operated Huntsville's "Garden Cove" for more than 30 years, God has brought him full circle back to Oakwood, where he began his career as the director of the Grounds Department in the 1980s.

We will set up a "pick and pay" stations, with 10% of all we produce being tithed to the underserved in our Huntsville community. Our first planting of the season will be blueberries. Our first year is an investment year. The plan is to begin making a profit in the second year. The goal is to hire students, and to incorporate a focused academic program. We are specifically linking Oakwood Farms and Student Career Success into a student centered enrichment program .  More details will follow in later communication.

Healthy Campus 2020 and Partnership for a Healthier America
LifeCycle Program Announced

On February 9, former First Lady Michelle Obama's organization "Partnership for a Healthier America" selected Oakwood University as the site for its first-ever convening of HBCUs on the topic of campus health.

Partners from HBCU institutions like Tuskegee, Alabama A&M, Talledega, Tougaloo, North Alabama University, and various partners had the opportunity to study and give feedback to our HC2020 initiative. Mr. Larry Soler, CEO, spoke to our team and to our students at Chapel, along with a special presentation by Dr. TenĂ© Lewis, Clinical Psychologist from Emory University. An expert on health disparities and women's health issues, Dr. Lewis is pictured here speaking at Chapel on the topic, "The Health of Our People." 

The entire day was planned by Dr. Prudence Pollard and Dr. Shirna Gullo and the team in Research and Faculty Development.  We ended the day with a dedication and ribbon-cutting of our new HC2020 LifeCycle Program.

Good News from Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy Partners

There's a first time for everything--like serving as a judge for the annual Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy Oratorical Contest.

On Friday, February 10, I had the pleasure of serving with eight other Atlanta professionals for the campus wide-event. The good news of the event is that each speech by each student was a phenomenal display of oratorical skill, and 5 of the 7 student participants indicated their intention to enroll at Oakwood in August of 2017, and one of the other two indicates that she is considering it.

While there, I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet an Oakwood University graduate, Attorney Cynthia C. Adams.  On January 31 of this year, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal appointed the Honorable Cynthia C Adams as a Superior Court Judge of the Douglas Judicial Circuit.  Judge Adams is a member of the Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church and is married to D. Dwayne Adams, an Atlanta attorney, and they two children. Judge Adams has agreed to come to campus and speak to our future attorneys.  Look for the announcements.

Next month, we will share more with you on our Career Pathways Grant and what it will mean for our campus and the students of the future.  Until then, do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any service to you.

Home Depot

Once again, Oakwood University is competing in The Home Depot Retool Your School grant program. This is a chance for us to  upgrade the campus with a grant from The Home Depot.

Voting begins Friday, February 24 and continues through April 16. Be sure to spread the word on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, using the handle @oakwoodedu or #Oakwood_RYS17. 

Next month, we will share more with you on our Career Pathways Grant and what it will mean for our campus and the students of the future. Until then, do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any service to you.

Yours in Service and Maranatha!
Leslie N. Pollard, Ph.D., D.Min., MBA