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Howard University’s 18th President Ben Vinson III, Ph.D. Shares Key Insights and Lessons from Campus Community Gatherings

The Bison Engagement Tour report covers highlights and feedback from many stakeholders across the campus and alumni network.

President Vinson meets with members of the Howard community during his listening tour. Photo by Justin D. Knight

President Vinson listens to members of the Howard community during his listening tour. Photo by Justin D. Knight

Howard University released its “Bison Engagement Tour Report,” a comprehensive report detailing key insights from President Ben Vinson III’s campus-wide Bison Engagement Tour. Launched in September 2023 at the start of his tenure at Howard, the tour included meetings with all 14 schools and colleges, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the Howard University Student Association (HUSA), Faculty Senate, and the Board of Trustees. These gatherings provided President Vinson first-hand insights on the state of the University and identified opportunities for continued growth.  

Reflecting on the tour, President Vinson emphasized the importance of unity and collaboration in realizing his ambitious vision for Howard. 

“My conversations across campus highlighted Howard’s resilience and commitment to excellence. Together, we stand poised to forge a path that honors our storied legacy while also embracing the limitless possibilities of tomorrow,” President Vinson said. “Our journey ahead is illuminated with promise, and I am humbled to lead such an extraordinary community toward a bright and transformative future.” 

The Bison Engagement Tour Report highlights community feedback across five priorities: enhancing student success; elevating research and learning; advancing engagement and University communications; improving operational efficiency and effectiveness; and sustaining financial strength. Informed by insightful dialogues from the tour, this report not only celebrates University achievements but also serves as a roadmap for President Vinson’s strategic outlook.  

Key feedback outlined in the report includes: 

  • Enhancing Student Success: The Bison Engagement Tour highlighted Howard University's superior academic standards and positive student outcomes, showcased by innovative programs that provide students with more opportunities for professional growth and development. Groups across schools and colleges emphasized the need to address student-to-instructor ratios, continue investments in academic programs, and enhance the use of cross-campus resources. President Vinson plans to thoroughly assess academic programs and bolster investments in faculty and student resources to further cultivate an environment of unparalleled academic excellence and inclusiveness. 
  • Elevating Research and Learning: Howard's achievements in research and innovation stand out as key markers of success as a leading HBCU. Further, with significant increases in research funding and the establishment of the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), Howard is on the cusp of returning to R1 research classification. Community feedback urged President Vinson to expand faculty and student research opportunities, provide more hybrid and off-campus learning opportunities, enhance collaborations with other leading research institutions and industry partners, and facilitate collaboration between schools and colleges. These conversations reinforced President Vinson’s commitment to advancing University scholarship and supporting students and faculty to pursue innovative research.   
  • Advancing Engagement and University Communications: Howard's mission to serve the Black community through education, health, economic, and social empowerment is alive and well across campus. In March 2024, Howard celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Alternative Spring Break program, which received a record 2,100 applicants. Our robust partnerships with leading foundations and organizations, notably our collaboration with the PNC Foundation, continue to enhance our service initiatives by boosting resources and support for Black business owners nationwide.  
    A common theme across the tour cohorts was a desire for increased transparency and communication from the presidential administration and campus leadership. Under the leadership of President Vinson, Howard is deepening community engagement and enhancing communication, fostering a culture of transparency and support. Over the coming months, President Vinson will continue engaging with the Howard community through regular touch points such as town halls and in-person meetings to build a more transparent, responsive, and efficient administration that supports the University’s mission and strategic goals.   
  • Improving Operational Efficiency and Effectiveness: President Vinson considers operational efficiency and effectiveness as “critical aspects” of his strategic vision. The University is currently undergoing its largest capital real estate initiative – a $785 million Campus Master Plan – which significantly accelerated the construction of new academic centers and improved administrative services. The Master Plan will revitalize Howard’s campus and ensure that our facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and resources to prepare our students for the workplaces and challenges of the future. Further, the University is bolstering campus housing and institutional management to meet the needs of a growing student body. President Vinson will continue to incorporate feedback from the campus community to assess administrative and infrastructure challenge areas to implement strategies that will improve the Howard experience.  
  • Sustaining Financial Strength: In the last decade, Howard reversed deficits totaling $100 million and regained financial stability. President Vinson has set his sights on strengthening the University’s financial outlook, ensuring that our current and future community have the necessary resources to succeed. Tour cohorts emphasized the importance of the University’s leadership maintaining open dialogues with faculty and students about Howard’s financial status and outlook. Participants also suggested reassessing University policies to better align financial strategies in service of all schools and colleges, and developing clearer guidelines for grant application and management, particularly for non-STEM fields.   

These conversations are necessary to reflect, engage, and plan with intention, ensuring that our future direction is aligned with the needs and aspirations of the Howard community. Under President Vinson's leadership, the University is set to continue its remarkable journey, making significant contributions to society and forward the development of scholars and professionals who drive change. 

This story appears in the Spring/ Summer 2024 issue.
Article ID: 2076

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