International Outreach Undertaken by Thurgood Marshall College Fund Schools - Higher Education
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International Outreach Undertaken by Thurgood Marshall College Fund Schools

by Amara Phillip

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) has launched an International Collaboration Group (ICG) as part of an extensive global outreach effort by public historically Black colleges and universities. Formed by 11 of the 47 TMCF-member institutions, the ICG is designed to forge international partnerships while producing more “world-ready” college graduates.

TMCF participants plan to launch projects in both developed and developing nations. Consortium schools include Cheney University of Pennsylvania, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University, York College, Central State University, University of the District of Columbia, Southern University, Prairie View A & M University, Elizabeth City State University and the University of the Virgin Islands.

Although the ICG had its first official meeting in late April, TMCF officials founded the ICG during the 12th Annual TMCF Member University Professional Institute this past March. 

In the first phase of the project, TMCF-member schools will work to form partnerships with schools in Singapore, China and Malaysia.

“We have spent the last year in a lot of thought about where can we have the most impact on the international front,” says TMCF President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr. “We’d be naive to believe that you can do something in all 47 schools immediately, but more schools are dabbling in various international initiatives.”

The second phase of the project involves student and faculty exchanges and bilateral partnerships, with schools working to create joint research opportunities. Five members of the TMCF—Florida A&M University, Alabama State University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas Southern University and North Carolina A&M University—already have begun the tentative steps of establishing study abroad programs and research initiatives.

Taylor says that the initiative was developed in response to a study that showed that students who study abroad have higher graduation rates.

“We know that one of the bigger challenges for HBCUs is graduation rates, so we figured that one way we can increase graduation rates was to incorporate a study abroad initiative,” he says.

The project also stemmed from a worry that students—particularly in HBCUs, which have a large percentage of first-generation college students—were becoming increasingly insular.

“Many of our students who attend the HBCUs are first-generation students and many of them have not ventured very far from the state that they were born in,” says Taylor. “We believe that this is critical for the country to make sure that this population of Americans understands the impact of the global community, and not just their local community.”

TMCF also plans to develop programs in less developed nations, such as the war-ravaged West African nation of Sierra Leone. Working in developed and developing nations can be beneficial to students, says Taylor, because it gives them a more comprehensive view of the world and may facilitate the exchange of ideas.

“We believe that diversity is more than Black and White,” he says. “[Students] need to know that the world is increasingly flat, and that it’s a global world out there.”

But the project is not without its costs. The first phase of the project cost around $400,000. Taylor estimates that the project’s second phase may cost upward of $5 million. He hopes to solicit funding from foundations and private donors throughout the country, anticipating a “major announcement” within the coming months.

Ultimately, Taylor says that he thinks the project will be sustainable in the long term.

“We probably directly touch about 100 students between various exchanges,” he says. “We want to make this a part of the way our schools do business.”

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