[WASHINGTON, DC] – Professor Dale Webber, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of University of the West Indies (Mona) visited several universities in the United States last week to explore expanded collaboration in research and exchange programs.
He placed a particular focus on a group of Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs) in the United States to start the process of creating opportunities for Jamaican Students attending the UWI to incorporate a study aboard experience in the United States.
Creation of Exchange Programmes
This will entail the creation of exchange programmes for students at UWI Mona and students attending HBCUs to have reciprocal stays of a semester, a year or two years at the participating universities while completing their degree programmes.
The framework for the collaboration was laid following a series of meetings organized by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Her Excellency Audrey Marks, between the University of the West Indies and several HBCU institutions in Washington, DC, Maryland and Delaware in the USA.
Professor Dale Webber, along with UWI Campus Registrar Dr. Donavon Stanbury, and bursar Mrs. Catherine Park-Thwaites, have been in the United States meeting with top level officials of the HBSU’s in since last Monday, to work out the details of the proposed collaboration.
Chairman of US President Joe Biden’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Dr. Tony Allen, said “what’s clear to me particularly for Black Students, whether they are in Jamaica or the United States, is that they have the same opportunity for success as we relate to one another and we build capacity for them to seize opportunities in front of them.” The Biden-Harris Administration has committed more than $5.8 billion in support for HBCUs through the American Rescue Plan.
Dr. Allen, who is also President of Delaware State University, pointed out that “There are strategic interests between the West Indies, Jamaica, and Black America as it relates to how we educate our children. To be able to connect the broader HBCUs to what is effectively the sixth region of the African Diaspora, is important to us. That is why relationships like the one we are building with the UWI here with Delaware State will be equally valuable and if done well will serve as a model for other HBCUs around the country.”
“The opportunities being offered are to do joint degree programmes, where you start a degree programme at Delaware State, and you can complete that programme at the UWI. Our university has done similar programmes with other universities outside of the US and implementing this with the UWI would be a win-win situation,” Dr. Allen said.
He said in short order his international affairs department will be visiting Jamaica early next month with a view to finalizing the discussion which will result in the signing of an MOU. He described the meeting with the Jamaican delegation and the Ambassador as very fruitful and it’s a strong beginning that will be very prosperous and beneficial to both universities.
Ambassador Marks said she was very pleased that the HBCUs had accepted her invitation to have a direct conversation with the UWI (Mona). Especially, given the important role that HBCUs continue to play in educating members of the Jamaican Diaspora in the United States. We strongly believe that we have so much more similarities than differences between the University of the West Indies and the HBCUs. But, to date we have not fully organized ourselves to utilize these similarities to build strengths.”
It is important that African American students can travel to Jamaica or the Caribbean. Not only to get a degree but to broaden their education experience and world view. Specifically, where they are not constrained by being a minority.
Once people have had the exposure and see that they can be anything they want, they are seeing themselves in a larger context where it changes their mind-set to want to do much more.
“It’s also very important for the UWI to have more exchanges. Especially where we give our young people an opportunity to go abroad for even a semester or a year. In an effort to get that different experience. They come back transformed. Not only for themselves, but also for their families. Plus, their communities and the wider country,” Ambassador Marks observed.
HBCUs are higher education institutions within the United States that were originally established with a mandate of providing higher education opportunities to African-American students. This was done in the 19th Century to offset the historical injustices of slavery. And, later segregation and their resulting impact on education within the Black community.
There are currently just over 100 HBCUs in the United States, representing approximately 3% of US higher-education institutions. These institutions are concentrated around the south-eastern United States. While predominantly catering to Black/African-American students, non-Black students made up approximately 24% of enrollment at HBCUs.