Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Preparing Leaders for a New Century

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Preparing Leaders for a New Century

Article excerpt

International relations, ethics, and spirituality the focus of student leadership conference

Richmond, VA.- Sheldon Murray drove down here from West Chester University of Pennsylvania because he's concerned about what will happen on his campus when many of the institution's more effective student leaders graduate this spring.

"There are only about a handful of people who continuously stand out [and] set the pace for our school -- and many of them are leaving," he says. "So I [asked] myself, `Why shouldn't I be the one to step forward?'"

Murray, a junior who dreams of becoming a "positive message" record industry executive some day, was one of approximately 900 college students who attended this year's National Black Student Leadership Development Conference. Focusing on ethical responsibility, spiritual growth, and preparing to lead in a global economy, the four-day conference drew students from 14 states. Among the speakers were: Winnie Mandela; Dr. John Hope Franklin; broadcaster, Bev Smith; Ohio State University provost and professor emeritus Dr. Frank W. Hale; and motivational speakers Patricia Russell-McCloud and Willie Jolley.

Mandela, whose message opened the conference, extended the hand of friendship from her native South Africa, reminding the students that while America is their adopted homeland, their skills and talents are also needed in the Motherland.

Dr. John Hope Franklin spoke directly to the large contingent of students who attend traditionally White schools when he shared intimate and still painful details about his experiences as a graduate student.

"Harvard University was no bed of roses, either, in 1935," he says. "I've taught at predominantly White institutions for the last 40 years ..., [so] I know what it is like for Black undergrads to feel lonely, and to feel neglected, and to feel undervalued.... I've seen the damage that can be done to minority students ...

"Most of you will be in a position of leadership," he continues. "It is important that you build relationships with each other. And excellence must be the watchword, the standard, the benchmark. It must be practiced until your graduation day. There can never be a compromise."

"I can really relate to what he was saying," says Bobby Ray Johnson, a sophomore at Miami University in Ohio. Diversity is a problem on his campus, he says, particularly diversity of campus leadership.

"By seeing other students who are involved in leadership on their campuses, I thought this would help me," Johnson says, adding that one of the greatest challenges he sees for his generation is "connecting with our identity as African Americans and being intellectual. …

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