Why Did you Choose an HBCU?

For me, there was no other option. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, the home of one of the best HBCUs in the world, Jackson State University. I grew up watching and attending their games, going to their summer programs, attending concerts and performances throughout the year, and cheering them on in all sports events against other HBCUs. My Grandfather was the first band director at the former Jackson College (Jackson State University) and Alcorn College ( Alcorn State University), so we often traveled to the schools. My Grandfather, Kermit Wells Holly, Sr., a graduate of Clark University ( Clark College/Clark Atlanta University), taught me the importance of our HBCUs and why we needed them and they needed us. After one visit to my Grandfather’s alma mater, I knew Clark Atlanta University was for me. I didn’t want to apply anywhere else, I didn’t want to visit anywhere else, and I wasn’t talking about any other school. I am going to CAU!

How was your experience at an HBCU?

There is no experience in the world like an HBCU experience. No matter your background, where you are from, who you are… you will always find your tribe at an HBCU! Some come from schools where they were all black, and others come from schools where they were the only black. At an HBCU, you will find a person who can relate. You find professors who care about your success. They want to see you succeed because they are invested in you and your future. You are not just a social security number to them or a name on file, as I see at PWIs. I felt that the moment I stepped foot on Clark Atlanta University’s campus. I wanted to experience it all. When I left CAU, they would remember my name!

How did you get involved on campus?

I started getting involved the second I got to Clark Atlanta. First goal….. Miss Freshman! Everyone knows the Royal Court at an HBCU is just as big as the Royal Court at Windsor Castle! LOL!! It’s a BIG DEAL, Honey!!! The crown represents the excellence at the university. You represent your dorm, you represent your class, you represent the school! I knew this would be a great start to my matriculation at CAU! The year I ran, there were 15 girls running. They said it was the most in history. Boom! I won! Lets Goooooo!!!! From there, I went on to get involved in all aspects of student and extracurricular campus life. It made my experience at my HBCU the BEST! I was an Orientation Guide, a member of the Pre-Alumni Council, a member of the NAACP, a Student Government Association, a Sophomore Class Secretary, a Junior Class Treasurer, Essence Dance Team (Majorette), Philharmonic Society, CAUTV, Homecoming Fashion Show (Director 1999), Miss Delta Sigma Theta, 1st Att. Miss UNCF and on and on. I was involved with every aspect of student life. CAU don’t owe me a thang!!! I loved being there, and I wanted to make my mark.

What does it mean for you to celebrate your Deltaversary 25 years later?

I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. I was initiated into the Pearl Pearing Sigma Chapter at Clark Atlanta University on April 18, 1998. This year, I celebrate 25 years of a lifetime commitment to one of the greatest sororities and organizations in the world. When I got to CAU, the presence of the ladies who were members of Delta Sigma Theta was very strong. They were leaders in every area known on the campus, from the school’s highest Queen to SGA to class officers to presidents of student organizations and chairs of the decision-making committees. There was no doubt that this was an organization I wanted to be a part of and a circle of women I wanted around me.

How could the city of Atlanta, not just the Black Community but the entire city, support the legacy and the future of Clark Atlanta University?

The legacy and future of Clark Atlanta University hold immense significance, not only for the Black community but for the entire city of Atlanta. To support this institution, the city should embrace a holistic approach. I believe financial backing is crucial. The city can allocate resources, provide grants, and promote partnerships that empower CAU’s mission of academic excellence. By investing in its infrastructure and programs, Atlanta ensures that CAU can continue to attract and educate bright minds.

How does an HBCU support its students financially compared to a PWI?

It is really hard for HBCUs to support their students as much as they would like because we don’t receive nearly as much of the federal funding PWI receives. We have smaller endowments, and when our alumni graduate, they usually fight to get out of debt or return home to help other family members in need. Even in 2023, most of the community is still first-generation educated. PWIs don’t care a thing about that!

What advice can you give someone contemplating attending an HBCU?

Having attended an HBCU, I’d advise anyone contemplating this choice to embrace the incredible sense of community and cultural enrichment that comes with it. HBCUs have much to offer in terms of providing a  platform for personal and academic growth within an environment where your heritage and identity are celebrated. Be prepared to engage in thought-provoking discussions and experience a supportive network that truly cares about your success. These institutions have a rich history of academic excellence, so take your studies seriously while participating in cultural clubs and events. Remember that HBCUs are inclusive, so you’ll meet diverse peers, opening doors to various perspectives. Explore scholarship and financial aid options to prepare financially, and don’t underestimate the power of the alumni network for future opportunities. So, attending an HBCU is not just an educational choice; it’s a transformative journey into cultural heritage, academic excellence, and lifelong connections.


About Author


Dr.Nikki Zeigler Publisher of The HBCU MAGAZINE

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