Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Spelman College Riding Momentum after Selection of New President

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Spelman College Riding Momentum after Selection of New President

Article excerpt

Spelman College students are looking forward to a new chapter in their college's history. Presidential leadership will change hands this summer, from outgoing Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum to the recently selected Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, current dean emerita of the Tisch School of Arts at New York University.

"We embrace Dr. Campbell like a sister at Spelman," said Mary Pickard, Spelman senior and Student Government Association (SGA) president. "We're welcoming her with open arms and we're excited to have her."

As a women's college, Spelman occupies a niche within the already small HBCU network, but consistently ranks among the top 10 of all women's colleges nationwide. While other single-sex institutions express trepidation about their viability - a concern that was recently exacerbated by Sweet Briar College's abrupt announcement that it would close - Spelman has been able to raise significant funding and increase alumnae giving to 41 percent even in the midst of the recession, according to the institution.

Tatum set a goal of raising $150 million by 2015 back in 2009. The campaign, which ended this academic year, netted $157.8 million for the school, according to Spelman.

In other words, Spelman is in a comfortable place, although not impervious from financial concerns. Its tuition is kept low, compared to other private four-year liberal arts colleges, and many students are recipients of scholarships funded by the school itself.

"I think [Tatum] will really be missed," said Amoni Thompson, a Spelman senior. "She's done a lot, as far as building up revenue for the college goes."

But students, or Spelmanites, as they call themselves, have high hopes for what Campbell will contribute to the school. "Everybody seems to have a positive view of Dr. Campbell, and her extensive background, and her qualifications, especially her arts background," Thompson said, adding that she would like to see a more equal emphasis on the arts, since in her view the STEM fields were promoted so heavily in recent years.

Thompson said that she was excited about Campbell's innovative career, hoping that it signified a willingness to maintain Spelman's traditions, but also advance the college in different areas. She pointed to the requirement, first established around 1900, that Spelman students wear knee-length white dresses to certain events on Founders Day, Commencement, Reunion, and New Student Orientation Induction as an example of a tradition that, in her view, could use some refining.

While Thompson celebrates Spelman's culture and traditions, she said that not all students, particularly those in the LGBTQ community, were comfortable wearing white dresses. …

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