Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

A Renewed Spirit: As NAFEO's New President, Dr. Frederick Humphries Vows to Make the Organization the `Lead Voice' for All Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (Cover Story)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

A Renewed Spirit: As NAFEO's New President, Dr. Frederick Humphries Vows to Make the Organization the `Lead Voice' for All Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (Cover Story)

Article excerpt

SILVER SPRING, MD.

So far, the outward signs of change at the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) are modest: a newly redesigned Web site, increased attendance at the annual conference and an increased percentage of members whose dues are current. Closer examination, however, exposes more profound change. In less than six months, the organization's new president, Dr. Frederick S. Humphries, has led the group to raise $500,000 in corporate partnerships, boost paid memberships to nearly 70 percent (up from roughly 40 percent a year ago), draft a new legislative agenda, and refocus its programming agenda to attract participation from a wider army of HBCU administrators.

Both the NAFEO Presidential Summit, which will take place in August in Palm Beach, Fla., and the annual conference, which is planned for next April, are being reorganized to draw administrators at the vice president, provost and dean levels. Humphries also has ordered a reorganization of NAFEO's leadership awards banquet, which traditionally culminates the annual meeting. The event is being retooled to become a fund-raising opportunity. In addition, Humphries has led the group to settle a long-standing dispute between NAFEO and the United Negro College Fund, by agreeing that UNCF member-institutions will no longer be included in any of NAFEO's fund-raising activities.

While rectifying problems within the organization and improving its financial status have been on top of Humphries' list of priorities, he is advocating for even loftier long-term goals, such as the creation of more doctoral programs at historically Black colleges and universities and the creation of additional medical and law schools at HBCUs.

Changes such as these mark the beginning of a refreshing new era for an organization that, as recently as a year ago, appeared critically imperiled. Of course, there are still problems: The organization's Web site, for example, while redesigned still contains incomplete and erroneous information; the semi-automated phone system continues to frustrate outside callers; and visitors to the organization's executive suite will notice obvious pockets of unoccupied office space. Nonetheless, there is a renewed spirit at the organization that cannot be ignored.

"I think there has been a new burst of energy that Dr. Humphries brings to everything he does," says Dr. Larry Earvin, president of Huston-Tillotson College, a NAFEO member. Earvin especially welcomes Humphries' plans to involve more administrators in the organization's activities. "It has been needed for a while.... Presidents can't do everything."

United Negro College Fund President William H. Gray, who a year ago was perceived as hostile toward NAFEO, now says the rift between the two groups is over and UNCF intends to work cooperatively with Humphries and NAFEO on projects that can benefit both organizations.

Black Issues Editor-at-Large Cheryl D. Fields recently caught up with Humphries at NAFEO's Silver Spring, Md., headquarters. His vision is to empower the organization to fulfill its mandate as an advocate on Capitol Hill for historically Black colleges, while also cultivating African American talent to assume more leadership roles in higher education. These and other thoughts are shared in the following excerpts from the interview.

BI: What has changed at NAFEO since your arrival?

FH: The thing that we've done that I think will be absolutely magnificent for the colleges as we go forward is that we are restructuring NAFEO. Before, NAFEO really just focused on the presidents of the colleges. What we have done since I've been here is to begin the development of the broader base of involvement in NAFEO other than the presidents. So, we are forming five institutes and two councils: The Institute for Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, the Institute for Vice Presidents/Directors of Sponsored programs (research), the Institute for Vice Presidents of Student Affairs, an Institute on Institutional Advancement--which is private-sector fund raising--and the Institute of Title III Coordinators. …

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