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After more than a year of fact-finding, researching and planning, the former Black Caucus of the now-defunct American Association for Higher Education has reorganized and incorporated as the Association of Blacks in Higher Education. During meetings held last week, transitional board members worked to identify the issues, hammer out the group’s bylaws and finalize the association’s mission, vision and goals.
The AAHE dissolved in March 2005 amidst a sharp decline in membership and financial problems. Less than a year later, the organization’s Hispanic caucus had formed a separate group and held its first national meeting. The ABHE, whose vision is to “become the premier organization to address leadership, access and vital issues concerning Blacks in higher education,” has followed the same course.
ABHE board members have held two other meetings and spent several months researching other higher education groups to find a niche for their new organization. While some campus, state and regional organizations address some of the issues that Blacks in the academy struggle with, the focus is often quite narrow, says Dr. David Taylor, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Morehouse College. ABHE will focus on meeting the needs of a larger, more diverse community of faculty, administrators, staff and students, he says.
With far-flung board members and no institutional “home,” it has been a task to bring the board together and rethink the role of the new organization, says Dr. Roland Smith Jr., chair of the transitional board and associate provost of Rice University. “The biggest challenge is to try to envision the organization in a whole new paradigm. It’s not simply to expand, it’s to create a new organization that helps provide a voice for the issues faced by African Americans in higher education.”
Two major focus areas for ABHE are mentoring and professional development. Specifically, the ABHE wants to assist its constituents with negotiating, planning and navigating a route through the academy. Through emphasizing the importance of professional engagement and building strong relationships among peer groups, the organization hopes to place more Blacks in key positions within higher education.
“I am really excited for us to continue our work to develop young Black professionals into senior faculty and administrators,” says board member Karen Eley Sanders, assistant provost and director of academic support services at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “That’s critical.”
For more information or to get involved, email Dr. Roland B. Smith, Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— By Kimberly Davis
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