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A Different Path To Excellence: Unique HBCU Programs For Ambitious Students

While business, engineering and the arts remain popular, there are some Black Colleges that offer specialized majors.

HBCUs have been labeled as party schools lacking competitive academic programs compared to others, but this is a common misconception. These institutions offer a wide range of degree programs to appeal to growing career fields with the intent to increase Black representation.

According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, HBCUs graduate 40% of all Black members of Congress and Black engineers, 50% of Black lawyers and 80% of Black judges.

Universities such as Xavier University of Louisiana and Prairie View A&M University rank as the top two and top 10 producers, respectively, of Black doctors among all institutions in the U.S., as reported by the National Library of Science.

These are only two of the HBCUs who assist with increasing the number of Black professionals.

Here are a few unique majors and programs you can find on HBCU campuses:

Aviation

Black pilots make up less than 2% of commercial airlines, according to a recent study. Few HBCUs offer an aviation program but here are the ones that do: Delaware State University, Elizabeth STate University, Florida Memorial University, Hampton University, Tennessee State University and University of Maryland at Eastern Shore. Curriculum tracks include Aviation Management, Pilot Career Development and Traffic Control.

These programs are making strides for aspiring pilots. Notably, United Airlines formed a partnership with DSU, Hampton University and Elizabeth State University in 2021 to create a direct pathway to becoming a pilot at a major airline.

“When it comes to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, you cannot hope for better. You have to do better,” said DSU President Dr. Tony Allen in a press release announcing the partnership. “That starts with leadership and partnership. As the No. 1 provider of pilots of color in the country, we’re proud of United’s leadership and excited about the partnership.”

Gaming

Benedict College announced its Esports gaming major in August making it the first HBCU to have this degree track. As the interest in gaming has increased in recent years and been added to the 2024 Olympics, the university located in South Carolina filled the void for their students.

“In keeping with Benedict’s strategic plan to offer transformational learning experiences, our innovative Esports Administration curriculum is designed to prepare students to create new applications and to engage in all facets of the industry,” Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Janeen Witty told WIS News 10.

Kentucky State University and Norfolk State University also have gaming programs that focus on design and development.

Geospatial Science

The developing discipline of geomatics is the study of connecting people with environments through remote sensing, geographic information systems (GISs), and geospatial intelligence. North Carolina A&T University and Fayetteville State University provide four-year degree programs, and students can minor in the program at Alabama A&M.

Students can work in the areas of photogrammetry, traditional land surveying, construction, hydrography, geodesy, geographic information systems (GIS) and forensic surveying.

Other Unique Programs

The first HBCU history course was created by Virginia State University’s Dr.Cheryl Mango, Asst. Professor of History and Philosophy. The course consists of four modules that look at the history of HBCUs over time, dating back to efforts in Africa and looking into the future of these institutions.

The course is designed for students to create a critical analysis of HBCUs as a “systemic way to understand ourselves,” said Dr. Mango. It looks at the glamorous sides of the educational institutions, including homecoming and greek life, as well as areas that need help, dorm conditions and financial situations.

“This class is about giving HBCUs onlookers, supporters, alums, everyone the tools they need to properly ascertain the history of HBCUs so they can properly continue,” Dr. Mango continued.

Jackson State University has recently launched THEE Pathway,  a new general education curriculum for students to create an academic experience that caters to their needs.

“The general education committee took an intentional approach to create a curriculum that advances equity and identifies and eliminates barriers,” said Dr. Brandi Newkirk-Turner, associate provost for Academic Affairs in a press release. “History will show that the work that we have done in re-imagining general education at JSU will have a positive impact on the metrics that matter: retention, persistence, and graduation.”

THEE Pathway curriculum consists of a General Education Core, which includes 30 hours of courses in five required areas, three hours of university required courses, and nine hours of General Education Pathway courses.

The program is designed to assist first-time and transfer students during their matriculation.

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