Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fisk University Report

Jubilee Hall
Fisk University, a historically black college located in Nashville, TN, minutes from downtown, as well as Vanderbilt University, is the most friendly and welcoming of the Southern universities I visited this summer. Madeline Kronenberg and I were only on campus for mere minutes before we had engaging conversations with a member of the university’s staff and two of their students, both of whom were struck with awe at the idea that we would want to bring California students to Tennessee, as the Golden State is a dream destination of their own. It was through these students that we were introduced to Anthony Jones, Fisk’s director of recruitment and admission. Before arriving at campus, we had heard word of Fisk’s struggles and seemingly unavoidable demise. Reports of their impending doom have been greatly exaggerated. Fisk University, while admittedly facing some bureaucratic adversity, is continuing to serve their students at a level unmatched by many of their peers.
Fisk is considered one of the five Black Ivy League schools, which also include Howard, Spelman, Xavier, and Morehouse. Fisk by no means is a black-only institution. The school does include white and Latino students and is dedicated to expanding the diversity of their student body in coming years, an effort already well underway.
The school is well noted for its work in the sciences, especially in medicine. Fisk has arrangements with both Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical College that allow for combined and accelerated degrees in medicine and health. Fisk also has strong pre-law and pre-engineering programs. Need evidence of Fisk’s value? For the past ten years, Money Magazine has included Fisk on its “100 Best College Buys” list. Fisk is ranked 1st of moderately selective colleges when it comes to graduating low-income students. According to Anthony Jones, more than half of Fisk graduates go on to graduate school. This is source of great pride for the university, as they foremost consider themselves a preparation school for advanced degrees. In a day and age when schools seem to be focused on plugging out career-oriented labor, I find this to be both impressive and refreshing.
Aaron Douglas Mural
A highlight of the Fisk visit was visiting Jubilee Hall, the South's (and perhaps this country’s) first permanent structure built for the education of black students. The building includes a massive central staircase reserved solely for graduates of the university who have reached their golden anniversary, 50 years, of their graduation. The campus is rich in African American history, with the world famous Jubilee Singers, W. E. B. Du Bois, Nikki Giovanni, and Hazel O’Leary all calling Fisk home at one time. The school is also noted for their museum of art, which holds works by Georgia O’Keefe, Aaron Douglas, Pablo Picasso, and Alfred Stieglitz.
In addition to learning about college life at Fisk, Madeline Kronenberg and I discovered the school’s hidden jewel, a six-week summer program designed for high school students to gain exposure to higher education. We had a very productive conversation with Anthony Jones and Jason Meriwether, Vice President of Student Engagement and Enrollment Management, about creating a connection between WCCUSD and Fisk, one that I hope to see come to fruition next summer.
Students looking for a personalized education at an elite school should look at Fisk. Students invested in African American history and joining a supportive network of learners and educators should also consider Fisk as a viable college option.

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