Toldson in Charge at White House HBCU Office - Higher Education
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Toldson in Charge at White House HBCU Office

by Autumn A. Arnett

Dr. Ivory Toldson has been officially named acting executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges.

In an email to stakeholders August 10, Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell announced that Toldson would be taking over the leadership of the office following the death of Dr. George Cooper last month.

The undersecretary said that, since Toldson arrived in the office as deputy director in September 2013, “he has brought to bear his deep experience as a professor, researcher, and dedicated champion for strengthening HBCUs.”

Toldson, who was a finalist for the presidency at Southern University earlier this summer, reaffirmed his commitment to the office and the mission of strengthening the institutions at the federal level in recent conversations.

Looking ahead, Toldson said he is focused on continuing in the tradition set by Cooper to visit as many schools as possible and create a “very welcoming, very available” environment in which people could voice their concerns about the HBCU community.

“I think that he was very effective in that, and that’s something that I want to continue,” Toldson said.

Toldson, who also serves as a senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, said he intends to “continue to work with … members of the Congressional Black Caucus and [others] in Congress on the things that they want to do to continue to help HBCUs” and make sure the office continues to do “everything possible to continue to support legislation” that will be beneficial to HBCUs. Also imperative, he said, is continuing to strengthen the collaborative relationship between the office and the other federal agencies to the benefit of HBCUs.

Equally important, he said, is equipping HBCU leadership with the information needed to access the opportunities the department opens up and compete for grants and additional federal funding. To this end, Toldson said, the office intends to grow its informational blog and webinar series to continue to provide the institutions with the necessary tools to advance the missions.

In addition to increasing the advocacy with federal agencies and Congress on behalf of HBCUs, one major thing Toldson would like to prioritize in his new role as acting director is the expansion of the HBCU All-Stars program, he said.

“This was what we saw as an opportunity to connect with another aspect of HBCUs,” he said of the program. “We found that you get a broader perspective when you reach out to other aspects of the HBCU community” rather than focusing solely on administrators.

“And students are arguably the most important aspect, because everything that we do is for [the benefit of] students,” Toldson added.

Mitchell said in his email that the swift announcement is intended “to ensure continuity and the uninterrupted advancement of its important mission, but department officials say it is “unclear” whether a full search will be conducted to fill the vacancy.

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