All posts tagged HBCU Trek

Edward Waters College Seal

The Edward Waters College campus is set in Florida’s largest city, the city with the largest land area in the contiguous United States, Jacksonville, FL.  Privately operated, associated with African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and providing degrees in 8 academic programs, Edward Waters epitomizes the liberal arts college. Located in a residential neighborhood on both sides of a commercial street, Edward Waters College (EWC) distinguishes itself from its surroundings using both street signs and street art.

EWC Street Sign 20150515_121707

From the first few minutes on the campus it easy to tell that the people are warm and welcoming.  Staff from the admissions house to academics, from the FAME (Focused Academic Motivating Excellence) Program to billing, from the residence halls to the print shop, everyone seems happy to be at Edward Waters.  The tour guide was knowledgeable, personable, and took us around to every nook and cranny of the campus, including the spots where she used to hang out as an undergraduate; moreover, the guide introduced us to amazing administrators on the campus who were filled to the brim with HBCU love.  The hospitality and intimacy the campus offers is second to none, even as a tour group my small crew of three ended were constantly waving, laughing, and hugging almost everyone we passed on the campus.

It seems that it would be difficult not to have a good time at EWC. The yard is full of student organizations’ plots and barbecue grills, the campus center has a sprawling first floor with an indoor workout facility and smoothie shop, and the residence halls look accommodating and comfortable.

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A beautiful campus fountain sits between the Lee-Cousins Building housing the Office of the President and the Henry Y. Tookes Building, home of information technology.

EWC Fountain

In a seamless “Town and Gown” partnership between Edward Waters College and the city of Jacksonville, the EWC criminal justice department shares a building with a Sheriff’s Office substation. EWC has a long, positive history and relationship with law enforcement.  The Edward Waters College President Nathan Glover was Jacksonville’s first Black sheriff.  Leveraging President Glover’s expertise and connections, the school opened the joint Criminal Justice Center – Sheriff’s Office substation in 2013.  Criminal justice and forensic science students at EWC now a site on-campus where they may shadow, intern, and be recruited to work full-time in positions aligned with their education and career goals.

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Jacksonville is a large coastal city with plenty to do in town and great places to eat–I am partial to The Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro, shout out to our tour guide for the suggestion.  The Edward Waters College campus feels full of student activities and organizations, feels altogether warm and inviting…and it’s Florida, so it stays warm.  I like it. I love it. EWC.

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check out ewc.edu for more info


SSU Historic Marker 20150513_153142


Savannah State University is the oldest public college located in the oldest city in Georgia. Originally designated as Georgia’s Black land-grant college, the land-grant has since been transferred to Fort Valley State University, Savannah State University still conducts basic and applied research to improve the lives of Georgia’s underserved population.



HBCU Trek Voyager Carl Darnell and SSU Student Ceasar

Savannah State was established in 1890 with a handful of students. SSU now enrolls 4,800 students in 27 majors each year, housing many of the students on campus.  Student organizations including the National Pan-Hellenic Council, music/band fraternities, and the student government association make life on campus active and unforgettable.

SSU Alpha Plot on the yard




Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Plot


Student life is centered around the Yard. The SSU Yard, a circle-shaped courtyard lined by admissions, student union, administration, and academic buildings, hosts the student organization plots and a mobile stage for performances and showcases.  A brightly decorated statue of a tiger, the SSU mascot, stands as the centerpiece of the Yard, a testament to the students’ school pride.

SSU Tiger 20150513_152307-1

As the University by the sea, SSU specializes in oceanic and marine research.  To highlight the school’s prowess in developing marine scientists, SSU provides a lists of its accomplishments on its website:

  • 19% of Bachelor’s degree graduates entered Master’s or Doctoral degrees
  • 30% of Master’s degree graduates entered Doctoral programs
  • 33% of Master’s degrees in marine/ocean sciences earned by African Americans in the U.S. from 2004-2007 were earned at SSU
  • 10% of African American Master’s and Doctoral students in marine/ocean sciences in 2007 were either enrolled in the Master’s program at SSU or were former SSU students enrolled in Doctoral programs elsewhere
  • 20% of masters graduates went on to Ph.D programs in past three years. (NSF/NIH survey spring 2011)
  • 47% of masters graduates found jobs in research-oriented careers in past three years. (NSF/NIH survey spring 2011)



Directly behind the dining hall lies a marsh leading to the Atlantic Ocean.

With reputable academic programs, engaging campus life, and the excellent setting on the eastern coast of Georgia, it is easy to see how Savannah State University is Rising.


The following images present more of the memorable sites and scenes from my tour of the campus.

20150513_145939Wright Hall and the Savannah State University water tower


Gym equipment renovations taking place in the Savannah State University workout facility: the Body Shop.

The Bodyshop SSU Weight Room

Savannah State University weight room

SSU Gordon LibraryThe Asa H. Gordon Library

Gordon Library Lobby

Savannah State University Gordon Library Lobby

Gordon Library 1st Floor

Gordon Library study areas



A small group of  visited the campus of the first Black institution that developed into what we call HBCUs. Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is located outside of Philadelphia on land donated over a century ago by a farmer named Cheyney.  Settled in the small town of Chester, Cheyney is a quiet place surrounded by farm land and a growing housing development.
Carl and Casta at CheyneyCarl and JT at Cheyney
The campus is lined with light posts waving the banners of famous Cheyney alumni like Ed Bradley and former leaders of the institution. Walking the paved walkways on a self-guided tour, my colleagues and I stopped in the student center first and had lunch in the cafeteria. Inside we met students from Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylavania who happily talked about their majors and reasons for attending Cheyney. Interestingly, the students we spoke with had both transferred in to the university from other colleges and were eager to take full advantage of the HBCU experience. After eating, we looked around the cafeteria at the large pictures of Black people dawning the walls and the student feedback/staff response forms posted near entrance. It was great to see how open the university was to student feedback and how they posted the  anonymous feedback with signed responses from the staff that directly addressed the students’ questions and comments.


Leaving the dining hall, The Yard was beginning to fill with the smells, sights, and sounds of student activity. A couple of student organizations were barbequing at their respective plots, one playing music from a portable sound system and another using the system from a car pulled up to the yard.  Beyond the bustle outside the modern campus center, the campus was quiet and distinctly historic. Most of the buildings near the yard were lined with stone resembling cottages of an earlier era. Further toward the outskirts of the campus, bricked academic buildings took on a more modern feel, and the sciences building stood out most of all with its aluminum casing, naturally filtered rainwater pond, and new greenhouse.

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My crew ended the tour at the library.  The main floor of the library featured student art, proclamations of Cheyney’s historic founding and its impact on higher education, as well as archival photos of early 19th century classes with some of Cheyney’s first students. Though it was a Sunday afternoon, there was a significant number of students in the library working on papers and reading. Upon leaving the library we marveled at the new residence center that was nearly the largest structure on campus, took pictures of our favorite spaces, and left the historic campus with a greater feeling of HBCU love and heritage.

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It was a good visit made even better by the fact that I was able to share it with my colleagues from the AERA Conference 2014, one of which had never toured an HBCU campus. How appropriate for the first HBCU campus tour to be of the first HBCU.

Carl Darnell – April 8, 2014
Insert pictures courtesy of Casta Guillome, Jeremy Snipes, and Carl Darnell

For more information about Cheyney, visit their website www.cheyney.com

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