The Aspen Institute Explores the Future of HBCUs During the COVID Era with Presidents from Historic Colleges

September 23, 2020

Online event series to feature Presidents from Spelman College, Paul Quinn College, the University of the District of Columbia, and Bennett College joined by Aspen Institute experts

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, September 23, 2020 — The Aspen Institute announces a series of online panels on the future of HBCUs in the COVID era, bringing experts from the Aspen Institute Partnership for an Inclusive Economy (APIE), Weave: The Social Fabric Project, and the College Excellence Program (CEP) together in conversation with an assortment of presidents from nationally recognized Historically Black colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The panels form part of In Focus: Equity in Education, an ongoing multimedia series from the Aspen Institute which explores systemic inequities in the education sector and how to address them in the COVID-19 era. They launch during the 2020 National HBCU Week Conference, a national gathering that brings together HBCU and government leaders to identify ways to advance these vital institutions.

Upcoming Panel Conversations:

Thursday, September 24, 11:00 am ET:

  • Frederick J. Riley, Executive Director, Weave
  • Virgil Parker, 2020-2021 HBCU Competitiveness Scholar
  • Dan Porterfield, President and CEO, Aspen Institute

Tuesday, September 29, 11:00 am ET:

  • Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, President, Spelman College
  • Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, President, Paul Quinn College
  • Virgil Parker, 2020-2021 HBCU Competitiveness Scholar
  • Frederick J. Riley, Executive Director, Weave (Moderating)

Thursday, October 1, 11:00 am ET:

  • Ronald Mason, Jr., President, The University of the District of Columbia
  • Suzanne Elise Walsh, President, Bennett College
  • Frederick J. Riley, Executive Director, Weave (Moderating)

    For Media: Panels are prerecorded live to tape. Members of the press are invited to watch these conversations here. They will also be posted to the Aspen Institute’s YouTube channel. Media interested in interviewing speakers or Aspen Institute experts should contact Jon Purves:

    More Information:

    The impact of COVID-19 and social distance learning on education have prompted discussions on the financial health of American colleges and universities, but how can we expand those discussions to include the unique challenges HBCUs face? How can we generate solutions for these institutions that gives full consideration to their historic lack of investment and the disparate impact of COVID-19 on their faculty, staff, and student populations? How are HBCU leaders responding, and how are students faring as they return back to school this fall? How does the financial situation of HBCUs impact student debt and the black/white wealth gap? What role can the philanthropic community play?

    For more than 150 years, even amid struggles for visibility and public investment, HBCUs have played an essential role in American higher education, propelling 20 percent of Black students at our institutions to their college degrees–and 25 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. As our nation reckons with the effects of racial injustice, and we see a growing groundswell of philanthropic commitments in HBCUs, we have an invaluable opportunity to ensure a vibrant future for these institutions.


    In Focus is a new multimedia series from the Aspen Institute that brings clear, diverse perspectives to the challenges shaping our society during a historic period of change and uncertainty. This series unites the Aspen Institute’s leading policy experts with our networks that span grassroots organizers, CEOs, student activists, and national lawmakers. Together, we’re showcasing new ideas, untold stories, and bringing the issues behind the headlines into focus.

    The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

    View Comments