Conference Aims to Help HBCUs Attract More students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Historically black colleges and universities are looking for ways to increase enrollment.

A group of four HBCU presidents, higher education leaders, innovators and corporate executives met at Tennessee State University Nov. 10 for a one-day conference to dialogue on tactics to gain more students.

Terrence A. Southern, a robotics and automation engineer at GE Global Research, and CEO of Illuminate STEM, a national STEM mentoring organization for K-12 underrepresented minorities. (Photo by Courtney Buggs, TSU Media Relations)

HBCUGrow, a group dedicated to helping HBCUs grow enrollment and alumni giving, organized the conference. The group also seeks to tackle the “changing landscape” of marketing challenges facing HBCUs.

But enrollment management continues to be a hot topic at these minority-serving institutions.

The presidents – TSU’s Dr. Glenda Glover; Dr. Forrest E. Harris of American Baptist College; Dr. Tracy D. Hall of Southwest Tennessee Community College; and Dr. Logan Hampton of Lane College – agreed that immediate, effective and innovative means must be developed to attract more students.

“At TSU, we have put in place new practices and processes to help our university grow,” Glover said, as she welcomed her colleagues and participants at the conference. “We have to improve on our brand to make sure we are doing everything we can to recruit and market talented students. We are thankful to HBCUGrow for putting this conference together, because if there was ever a time to grow our HBCUs, it is now.”

Terrence A. Southern, a robotics and automation engineer at GE Global Research and CEO of Illuminate STEM, an organization committed to promoting educational opportunities and mentorship in STEM fields for K-12 underrepresented minorities, was the keynote speaker.

He said HBCUs should do a better job at marketing their services if they are to succeed in attracting students.

“The first step in making our enrollment grow is to effectively communicate our capabilities and the caliber of education we offer,” said Southern, a 2003 TSU graduate with a degree in computer science, who credits his success to effective mentorship.

He is giving back as a result. From mentoring youth in Detroit and Dallas through after school programs for the last 10 years, he created Illuminate STEM, which is now reaching out to many more young people.

Southern said HBCUs account for thousands of graduates every year.

“But I hear major corporations like Google, Amazon, General Motors saying their diversity has not grown because they do not know where to get African-American students,” he said. “I say, ‘how is that possible?’ So either they don’t know about us or we are not making our presence known.”

Southern also called for better relationships between institutions, students and alumni, as a way of promoting the institutions and their offerings, and giving back to the school.

“HBCUs should also work together as an entity with the same vision to attract not only the best students, but those who need the kind of mentoring and attention HBCUs are known for,” Southern said.

In addition to the presidential panel discussion, the conference included breakout sessions on topics like “Branding’s Role in Increasing Enrollment”; “Marketing Segmentation”; “Integrated Marketing Strategies to Increase Enrollment Without Busting Your Budget”; and “Making Sure Your Website Attracts & Retains the Best Students for Your HBCU.”

Sponsors included Vitalink, Universal Printing and AndiSites.

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at