There is an untapped resource for changing the face of the public relations profession and capitalizing on diversity within the industry—Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU). HBCUs are a source of accomplishment and great pride for the African-American community as well as the entire nation. Moreover, HBCUs are a hidden gem within public relations education.
Throughout history, HBCUs have been crucial in the development of black professionals. Black educators in the South had a saying about the importance of teachers, “As is the teacher, so is the school.” HBCUs offer all students, regardless of race, an opportunity to develop their skills and talents. Some say HBCUs are under-resourced and under-served, but those critics should realize the educational achievements, inspiration and cultural awareness HBCUs possess.
Last year, President Obama set an ambitious goal for the nation — he wants America to again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Additionally, during a February 2010 ceremony at the White House, President Obama signed a new executive order and White House Initiative promoting excellence, innovation, and sustainability at HBCUs. In order to achieve these goals, HBCUs will need to play a critical leadership role.
PRSSA is proud to have 15 Chapters at HBCUs that work to advance the profession and the future professional. These Chapters provide an excellent opportunity to train a new generation of minority students to be competitive achievers in public relations, thus enhancing our diversity.
Public relations practitioners and students should celebrate the success and creative investments of HBCUs and realize that they are the very foundation in building a bridge for diversity awareness in our profession.
Brandi Boatner was the PRSSA 2008–2009 national president. Currently, Boatner works at IBM in New York, where she is a member of the Global Business Services communications/PR team. Her roles and responsibilities include media relations, social media strategies for IBM’s C-suite thought leadership study series and working with IBM’s Institute for Business Value.