In honor of Black History Month, CAHIIM would like to spotlight our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). We currently accredit 12 HBCUs including: Alabama State University, Bishop State University, Shelton State Community College, Florida A&M University, Albany State University (West Campus), Southern University New Orleans, Southern University Shreveport, Coppin State University, Hinds Community College, Tennessee State University, St. Phillips College and Texas Southern University.
Hear from Dr. Mona Calhoun, a Professor at a CAHIIM Accredited HBCU, on her experience as an educator at a Historically Black University and what she believes the future looks like for HBCUs.
Q: Why did you choose to teach at a HBCU (Historically Black College or University) over a PWI (Predominately White Institution)?
A: "I have always wanted to be in education, but felt it was important to have work experience to bring more to the academic and teaching experience. My undergraduate and graduate work was at PWIs, and I said if I ever had the opportunity, I want to teach at a HBCU. Because I felt then, and still do, that is where I could have the greatest impact. I was President of the MDHIMA board at the time and serving on an advisory council to bring the baccalaureate degree in Health Information Management to the State of Maryland through Coppin University. So, it was a win-win for me and the school. Coppin University has offered the only accredited baccalaureate degree in the state of Maryland since 2006."
Q: What impact do you see HBCUs making over the next 10 years?
A: "It pains me to have to say but racism is still prevalent in this country. HBCUs have afforded an opportunity for students of color access to education, and I don't see that changing in the next 10 years. If anything, it will be more important. Students of color need a safe space to express themselves, grow and thrive academically, while learning how to live in a society that does not favor them; and be around people who can teach them how to be the opposite of what they experience and create diverse and inclusive environments, despite the barriers. Those on PWI campuses will argue they provide those spaces, and that they are diverse and inclusive, but in my opinion, it is often because they have to be and not because they want to be. When we look at history we don't see or hear of HBCUs not allowing Caucasians, Asians, or Latino students to come to their institutions. No laws needed to be passed. HBCUs have always accepted all without being forced to do so. We can be diverse, equitable and inclusive, while holding on to our heritage and not forgetting our past, so our students know by example how to move forward, be successful, accepted and understood without having to change who they are."
Q: What are the most unique aspects of a HBCU education?
A: "A supportive environment. Students come to HBCUs and see peers and people that look like them, people who can relate to their struggles, there is a sense of community, and energy unlike no other. There is a sense of pride when they see people who look like them who have achieved and overcome. And I have found that faculty on HBCU campuses, no matter the race, want to genuinely see their students succeed. Faculty on PWIs want their students to succeed as well, but on a HBCU campus, I think it is more important because these kids are so often disenfranchised. We want a win for them to boost their self-esteem, guide them to professional success, and encourage them to go to greater heights."
Q: What impact do HBCUs have on society as a whole?
A: "HBCUs impact society as a whole because of the opportunities they have afforded to students of color particularly African American students, who may not have otherwise had those opportunities. HBCUs, paved the way for African Americans to not only get a postsecondary education, but to get into STEM and a variety of other careers. By educating more students of color, HBCUs have helped to drive the economies in their communities, regionally and nationally."
Q: What advice do you have for someone looking to teach at a HBCU?
A: "Just do it!"