On Friday (Sept. 9), Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard University graduate, capped off a weeklong series of events for HBCU Week with a visit to Hampton University in Virginia, where she toured the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) facilities.
“As a proud HBCU alumnus, it’s a privilege to work for the first HBCU graduate to serve as the vice president and an administration that understands HBCUs are engines of opportunity that are instrumental in preparing future leaders,” said Vince Evans, Florida A&M University graduate and deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Vice President.
The White House Initiative on HBCUs hosted the 2021 HBCU Week Conference, which included a range of events and opportunities for federal agencies, private sector companies and philanthropic organizations to engage with HBCUs.
Biden officially started the weeklong celebration of Black higher learning on Sept. 3 by signing a proclamation that recognized September 5 - 11 as National HBCU Week.
“ I call upon educators, public officials, professional organizations, corporations, and all Americans to observe this week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that acknowledge the countless contributions these institutions and their alumni have made to our country,” notes the Proclamation signed by President Biden.
It continues, “Since 1837, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have educated and prepared millions of people to lift up our Nation and make their impact on the world. These essential institutions have been critical engines of opportunity for generations of American families — they are incubators of excellence, helping to shape the story of our Nation and deliver on the promise of a more perfect Union. During National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week, we celebrate the vital role that HBCUs play in molding Black leaders and ensuring that America continues to move closer to reaching its full potential.”
The president also signed an executive order that established the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Opportunity, and Excellence through HBCUs.
The administration also continued its efforts to shore up the finances at HBCUs. It has proposed approximately $239 million in new institutional aid funding for the institutions in the Department of Education budget for next year, a White House statement said.
HBCUs have been underfunded for decades, in many cases by state lawmakers who diverted budget spending away from the schools, to the tune of billions of dollars.
With students returning to campus, one of the events included a roundtable discussion on COVID-19 vaccinations. Dr. Anthony Faucci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and White House senior policy advisor Dr. Cameron Webb hosted the discussion with student leaders from several HBCUs.
“I’m extremely proud of what this administration has accomplished in its first year and look forward to continuing our efforts on behalf of HBCUs across the country,” Evans stated.
And the week-long dedication To HBCUs culminated on Friday (September 10) when White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre held a press briefing via video conferencing from the White House for student journalists at several HBCUS.