As an avid reader of the Indianapolis Recorder, I read with great interest the news of Congressman André Carson’s legislative accomplishments in advancing the causes of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). I am thankful for and loudly applaud his leadership, advocacy and activism in helping to call attention to this underserved but significant sector of higher education. Congressman Carson accurately portrays HBCUs as critical contributors to innovative advancements in STEM fields and other important industries and that these institutions develop talented individuals who will comprise a diverse and high-performing workforce. I have no doubt that his commitment and efforts will positively impact the future of HBCUs. I know of few other elected officials fighting so hard for minority-serving institutions.
Carson has also provided tremendous support for a similar group of institutions that are closely related to HBCUs but sometimes fail to garner the same attention and support: predominantly Black institutions (PBIs). PBIs share many of the characteristics of HBCUs and also provide the economic development and workforce benefits to individual communities and the entire country in the same manner as HBCUs. A primary difference between the HBCU and PBI designations is the year in which the institutions were founded. The HBCU designation is reserved only for institutions that have historically served predominantly Black student populations and were founded prior to 1964. Colleges and universities that share this student demographic but were founded after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are designated as PBIs. However, PBIs can also differ from HBCUs in other ways. Unlike most HBCUs, at least 50% of undergraduate degree-seeking students at PBIs are typically low-income or the first in their family to attend college. These institutions play a critical role in providing access to higher education for low and middle-income Black and other minority families in and around urban communities.
While Indiana does not have an HBCU, we are fortunate to have Martin University as the state’s only PBI. Founded by Father Boniface Hardin and Sister Jane Schilling in 1977, Martin University is one of the few PBIs in the United States that is also a four-year institution. Most others are community colleges. The over 1,800 alumni of Martin University include individuals who have made significant and important contributions to their respective professions and our communities. Martin University also continues to partner with employers in the region to understand and help meet current and future workforce needs while collaborating with community organizations to advance sustainable solutions that result in economic and social stability. On March 25, I was honored to have been appointed as the fifth president of Martin University, succeeding Dr. Eugene White. My focus has been to ensure that Martin University continues to honor the mission and legacy established by our founders as a transformational change-agent for our students, partners and the communities in which we live and serve. At the same time, we must be future-focused on our plans and growth strategies. I believe that the support and ambassadorship of Martin University’s students, employees, partners, alumni and friends are what helps us remain relevant within the higher education landscape of Indiana. While our designation as the state’s only PBI distinguishes Martin among other colleges and universities, our resilient past, bright future and mission to provide excellence in educating and developing traditional and nontraditional students drives our resolve. As Martin’s new president, it is my honor to advance our mission, and I humbly ask for your continued support. Together, we will take Martin University higher than ever before.
Dr. Sean Huddleston is president of Martin University, Indiana’s only predominately Black institution (PBI) of higher education.