Howard University Starting Ph.D. Program Focusing on Minority Serving Institutions - Higher Education
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Howard University Starting Ph.D. Program Focusing on Minority Serving Institutions


by Jamal Eric Watson

Howard University is launching a new Ph.D. program in Higher Education with a focus on Minority Serving Institutions—the first doctoral program of this kind in the nation.

“This program really fills a niche,” says Dr. Robert T. Palmer, program coordinator of the doctoral program and associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the private historically Black university located in the nation’s capital. “We really want to admit people who have a passion for research.”

Dr. Robert T. Palmer

Dr. Robert T. Palmer

Palmer says that 10 to 12 students will be admitted into the first cohort model next fall and that the university has partnered with four D.C.-based organizations—American Council on Education, Excelencia in Education, United Negro College Fund, and The Education Trust—to provide Ph.D. students with graduate assistantships.

The focus on Minority Serving Institutions will provide students with the opportunity to learn about the unique history and the challenges that impact these colleges and universities.

“There is an intentionality in the focus and the coursework,” says Palmer, who earned his doctorate from Morgan State University, an HBCU located in Baltimore. He says that plans are underway, for example, to offer a course taught by an MSI college president.

Palmer says that 72 credit hours are needed to earn the degree and the program can be completed in four years, with courses offered in the evening and through a hybrid model.

“Students will have the opportunity to publish and present with faculty,” says Palmer. “We want to make sure that students publish in journals and present at conferences. This will make them more marketable.”

Dr. Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education and director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania, says that the creation of this new doctoral program in Educational Leadership with an emphasis on Minority Serving Institutions is needed.

“Robert Palmer is a wonderful scholar and researcher,” says Gasman. “Robert has the expertise and the track record to do this important and good work. I’m excited to see the results, and I’m here to support him with the resources at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.”

The deadline for applications is December 1, 2016. Palmer says that prospective students should contact him directly at

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson

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