More Than Just Money: Committed Partners Can Be Worth Their Weight in Gold When an Institution Is Trying to Improve. Just Ask Hampton University. (Noteworthy News)

By Fields, Cheryl D. | Black Issues in Higher Education, November 7, 2002 | Go to article overview

More Than Just Money: Committed Partners Can Be Worth Their Weight in Gold When an Institution Is Trying to Improve. Just Ask Hampton University. (Noteworthy News)


Fields, Cheryl D., Black Issues in Higher Education


HAMPTON, VA.

Money is often viewed as the biggest obstacle to upgrading an institution's campus and/or academic programs. In tight economic times, institutions often end up postponing, scaling back or even scuttling plans for growth. But, as at least one historically Black college can attest, sometimes the greatest asset an institution can have is an outside partner who is as committed to a project as campus leaders.

Hampton University's experience in developing its new Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications is one such example. The $10 million facility and enhanced academic program are products of a unique partnership between the university and the Scripps Howard Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cincinnati-based media company E.W. Scripps Co. The new school was born out of two visions that providentially converged at the right time.

Judith G. Clabes, chief executive of the Scripps Howard Foundation, has played a leading role in the creation of the new school. Her journey to the partnership with Hampton began many years before she even got to the foundation.

"I had been involved in trying to solve the problem of diversity in the nation's news rooms for a long time," Clabes recalls. The former head of the American Society of Newspaper Editors had played an active role in that organization's failed Diversity 2000 effort. During that time, she became all too familiar with the challenges the media face in recruiting people of color. One significant part of the problem, she discovered, is the paltry production of African American students with journalism degrees by the nation's colleges and universities. Not only are traditionally White colleges and universities producing too few African American journalism graduates, but too few historically Black colleges have journalism programs.

Once settling into her job at the foundation, Clabes thought one solution might be to create a new school of journalism at an HBCU.

"We visited a lot of campuses and talked to a lot of people," she says. "The trail, eventually, led to Hampton."

Hampton, it turns out, had recently flagged its mass communications program for upgrading. At the time, the program was woefully understaffed and included courses that some faculty members considered obsolete. Nonetheless, student enrollment in the major was robust, hovering around 300 per year--an indication that interest in the field was high. So reconfiguring the program became one of the priorities outlined in the university's 1996 strategic plan.

"I had asked all the deans here to identify at least one department or program that could be a Program of Distinction," says Hampton President William Harvey, recalling the process that led to mass communications being included in the strategic plan. "I asked them to let me know what it would take in terms of strategy, programs and resources." Mass communications was one of the programs so identified by the Division of Arts and Humanities. Once the plan was completed, however, little happened until Clabes approached Harvey expressing interest in discussing the possibility of working together to build a new journalism school. …

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