HBCU chancellor and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority regional director discuss VP-elect Kamala Harris

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 8:50 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN)- Vice President-elect Kamala Harris doesn’t just make history as the first Black and South Asian woman to hold the position, but she’s also making other firsts. Harris will be the first Vice President who graduated from a Historically Black College or University, or HBCU, and the first member of the Divine Nine Black Greek-letter organization to make it to the White House.

Many people and groups have high expectations for what’s to come when the Biden/Harris team is sworn in. As Vice President of the United States, Harris, a graduate of Howard University, can impact all 107 HBCUs around the country.

In North Carolina, one Historically Black University’s chancellor has seen an enrollment spike and Black Greek-life thrive, as leaders position for outcomes of promises made during the election.

As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., one of the Divine Nine organizations, Harris’ presence increases exposure for the groups. Harris became a member of the first Black sorority while attending Howard University.

Leaders are projecting more students will get involved. Winston-Salem Chancellor Elwood Robinson believes her position will change the way people see Black colleges.

“Quite frankly, with the Vice President, I mean, we’re going to see these institutions differently,” Robinson said.

He says there’s been a resurgence of interest.

“Going into a pandemic, well, one: we didn’t know what to expect in terms of enrollment. We didn’t know if students were going to take a year off, were going to have a so-called, gap year. So, we were expecting the worst,“ Robinson said, “I think more and more folks are looking at HBCUs. At Winston-Salem State University, we’ve seen an increase in enrollment.”

Robinson believes it’s due to the reckoning of social unrest and the Kamala Harris effect.

When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn-in, Robinson says he plans to hold the Biden administration accountable for promises made on the campaign trail.

“Issues around Pell Grants, increased funding, issues around Title III. funding, Title IV. funding—the kind of funding these institutions need. We will begin to put pressure on the administration to begin to look at us and begin to fund us in some very different ways. We’re looking for innovation and creativity around funding,” Robinson said.

HBCUs have, overall, been marginalized and disenfranchised for generations, according to the Coalition for Equity. President-elect Joe Biden pledged 70 billion dollars to HBCUs during his campaign, giving Robinson high hopes.

It also elevates Black sororities and fraternities.

Jennifer King-Congleton is the Mid-Atlantic regional director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated—the same sorority VP-elect Harris joined at Howard University.

“To be a part of a major, political party, and the second most powerful position, has actually galvanized the entire Black Greek organization,” Congleton said.

Congleton met Harris on several occasions and is impressed with the leader.

“Just as she appears, she’s smart, charismatic, determined, strong, and, most of all, has a heart for people,” Congleton said.

She says Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members have been “tickled pink and green” with excitement for Harris.

HBCUs are riding on that enthusiasm also.

“Greek life has been so much a part of HBCU experience for so, very long,” Robinson said.

That experience at more than 100 HBCUs nationwide is now highly-visible because of VP-elect Harris.

“I think folks are now seeing that they can come to these institutions, get a wonderful, great education, and they can go out, and they can change the world,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he’s proud of how involved HBCU undergraduates were in the Democracy this year and hopes the energy continues for future elections.

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