Date April 11, 2023
Media Contact

With an eye toward expanded HBCU partnerships, Brown appoints first-ever HBCU presidential fellow

In a new role, Elfred Anthony Pinkard will help shape innovative collaborations with HBCU partner schools, building on Brown’s unique 59-year-old partnership with Tougaloo College in Mississippi.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Elfred Anthony Pinkard, a longtime educator with decades of leadership experience at historically Black colleges and universities, has been named Brown University’s first-ever HBCU presidential fellow, effective July 1.

Pinkard, who will retire this spring as president of Wilberforce University in Ohio, the nation’s oldest private HBCU, was appointed to lead an emerging effort to strengthen and expand Brown’s relationships with HBCUs, building on the historic 59-year-old Brown-Tougaloo Partnership and marking the most recent step in the University’s commitment to establishing bold, innovative partnerships that aim to advance educational and institutional equity.

Elfred Anthony Pinkard
Elfred Anthony Pinkard has been named Brown's first-ever HBCU presidential fellow.

“I was really drawn to the idea that an institution with the stature and resources of Brown, with its historic and successful relationship with Tougaloo, can work together through an iterative process to support these institutions,” Pinkard said. “Brown is honoring and expanding its relationship with HBCUs with the goal of partnering with these institutions as they reimagine their futures and build on their noteworthy legacy of achievement against formidable odds.”

Pinkard brings the experience, relationships and deep respect for HBCUs to help shepherd an initiative that will broaden and amplify Brown’s impact, set to launch during the 2023-24 academic year, according to Sylvia Carey-Butler, Brown’s vice president for institutional equity and diversity.

“Brown’s strong partnership with Tougaloo College has resulted in meaningful connections and valuable and enriching experiences for hundreds of members of our communities,” Carey-Butler said. “As part of Brown’s enduring commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we’re expanding on this groundbreaking effort and exploring ways in which the University can support and collaborate with other HBCUs, while at the same time advancing the University’s historic commitment to the Tougaloo partnership.”

The Brown-Tougaloo Partnership, established between Brown and Tougaloo College in Mississippi in 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement, has grown into a strong, multifaceted partnership. Through the program, undergraduate participants spend time learning on the respective campuses, faculty build research collaborations, Tougaloo graduates pursuing medical careers attend Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, and master of public health students from Tougaloo and other HBCUs enroll in the Health Equity Scholars program at Brown’s School of Public Health.

Brown is uniquely positioned to build on our legacy as a leader in higher education that’s committed to inclusion and belonging. We can share our expertise and resources to assist in working toward sustainable futures for HBCUs. There is a lot we can learn from them, and a lot we can offer.

Sylvia Carey-Butler Brown’s Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
Sylvia Carey-Butler speaks at a podium

According to Carey-Butler, the expanded HBCU partnerships reflect a commitment at Brown to sustaining the legacy of HBCUs in educating many generations of Black students. She noted that although HBCUs make up less than 4% of four-year colleges in the U.S., they have graduated approximately 80% of the nation’s Black judges, 50% of Black doctors, and 25% of Black graduates in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a recent article in Forbes magazine.

Building new bridges through research, exchanges and more

Since last summer, Carey-Butler has been working to develop a framework for a new initiative at Brown, partnering with multiple HBCU presidents, including Pinkard in his role at Wilberforce, to shape and inform the effort.

“There is a real interest in bringing people together — in interaction and engagement,” Carey-Butler said. “This will expand the experiences of everyone who participates at our institutions.”

The intent is to create a consortium of partner schools with goals of encouraging collaborative research, promoting faculty development, providing student exchange opportunities, increasing the number of HBCU undergraduates attending graduate school, building infrastructure capacity at participating HBCUs, and inspiring leadership in higher education and policy development.

“Brown is uniquely positioned to build on our legacy as a leader in higher education that’s committed to inclusion and belonging,” Carey-Butler said. “We can share our expertise and resources to assist in working toward sustainable futures for HBCUs. There is a lot we can learn from them, and a lot we can offer.”

Pinkard, who has served in a consulting capacity for Brown during the early planning for the new initiative, said that new partnerships can help meet the challenges and opportunities that HBCUs face.

“HBCUs are a special sector in the unique mosaic of American higher education,” Pinkard said. “But the historical record is replete with examples of uneven resources, a challenging relationship with the federal government, and the inability of many HBCUs to get before the philanthropic community to request the kind of support that builds financial strength. And yet HBCUs have persisted and been successful in graduating very impactful alumni.”

Legacy of leadership and collaboration

Pinkard has been president of Wilberforce University since 2018 and previously served in senior leadership roles at other HBCUs, including Johnson C. Smith University, Dillard University, Spelman College and Florida Memorial University. He also served as the founding executive director of the United Negro College Fund’s Institute for Capacity Building.

Pinkard earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Morehouse College, a master of education from Howard University, and a doctor of education from Harvard University. He serves on the board of directors of the Council of Independent Colleges and on the leadership team at the Higher Education Leadership Foundation, which was founded in 2015 to develop well-trained leaders who are prepared to meet the needs and challenges that HBCUs face.

Pinkard and Carey-Butler said innovative collaborations, like the one Pinkard will lead as Brown’s first HBCU presidential fellow, may be more important than ever as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to decide whether to affirm or overturn the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions decisions.

“Black enrollment in college is declining, and if you remove race as a factor in admissions, you’ll see a precipitous decline across the academy,” Carey-Butler said. “Having stable and sustainable relationships that provide educational opportunity and equity will mitigate, but not erase, what we might likely have to face.”

She recalled Brown’s watershed 2006 Slavery and Justice Report and its reinvigorated second edition in 2021, drawing inspiration from the University’s drive to address issues of inequality.

“We aim to build on the legacy of that work by creating a broader HBCU initiative, and I think it’s our responsibility to do that,” Carey-Butler said. “Higher education is the entity that’s best equipped to grapple with social and political issues and help students better understand each other and better understand difference, even in instances when they don’t agree.”

Following more than a year of groundwork, and with Pinkard’s arrival in July, Carey-Butler said she hopes to officially launch the new initiative during the 2023-24 academic year with an inaugural group of partner HBCUs.

“We’re at the very beginning,” Pinkard said. “But we’re limited only by our imagination in terms of what’s possible and the ways this will enhance student experiences, as well as faculty and staff experiences, at each of the participating institutions.”