Black Faculty and Staff Association reviews ‘The State of Black UMSL’ and provides scholarships

by | May 16, 2022

Information systems major Clarence Baker Jr., nursing major Donyell Nelson, biology major Chinelo Onuijbo and finance major Corlia Spears received scholarships.
Five board members of the BFSA stand facing the camera

Harry Harris, president of the BFSA; E. Paulette Isaac-Savage, communications and media chair; Sherry Hieken, treasurer; Sha Lai Williams, vice president for faculty; and Antionette Sterling, vice president for staff, oversaw the event. (Photos by Wendy Todd)

Last week, the Black Faculty/Staff Association at the University of St. Louis–Missouri held its annual The State of Black UMSL event which reviewed progress the organization has made and strides it still endeavors to achieve in creating and maintaining an equitable environment for Black faculty, staff and students at the university. Four students were also awarded scholarships.

The event opened with attendees singing the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice,” and proceeded with introducing new board members and a review of the past year.

New board members include Richard Middleton, professor of political science; Ciera Jessup, business support specialist; and Carla Jordan, director of advising and student services in the College of Business and Administration.

The review noted the disproportionate loss of Black staff and the continued need to add Black faculty. Harry Harris, president of the board of BFSA commented that the faculty and staff at UMSL should match the community.

“One thing that we have done is to really push for efforts to improve those numbers through different ways and participate in different committees so we can have a seat at the table to make sure we reinforce how important it is for our numbers to really match our community,” Harris said.

The BFSA wants to continue to review and address retention of Black faculty and staff.

Harris also mentioned that the organization has connected with other BFSA groups in the UM system in order to increase the visibility of the organization across the UM system. Other topics of review included the status of Black enrollment.

Reggie Hill, associate vice chancellor for strategic enrollment, informed attendees on Black enrollment at UMSL, stating that currently Black students make up 16% of the UMSL student population and have an average GPA of 3.5. Black women make up 67% of new incoming students, though Black male enrollment is down at UMSL and across universities due to factors such as young Black men going into the workforce after high school or joining the military.

The BFSA is also focusing on ways to improve enrollment and retention among Black males in addition to continuing to support Black students overall.

Among other issues reviewed were the plans to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the organization, which will be next year. It will be a yearlong celebration filled with events, presentations and opportunities to connect.

As the event came to a close four students were awarded scholarships. Students who received BFSA scholarships were Clarence Baker Jr., a senior who graduated with a BS in information systems; Donyell Nelson, a senior and nursing major; Chinelo Onuijbo, a junior and biology major; and Corlia Spears, who graduated with a BSBA in finance.

Three students who received BFSA scholarships stand and smile.

Clarence Baker Jr., Donyell Nelson and Corlia Spears received scholarships from the Black Faculty and Staff Association.

Baker Jr. appreciated the BFSA awarding him funding to help with educational expenses.

“Going through college and having to look for scholarships has been really hard,” Baker Jr. said. “Having to worry about ‘Oh, how am I gonna pay for this, how am I going to continue?’ When you get a scholarship it takes a huge weight off your chest. You know there’s people out there who care about you and want to see you succeed. It makes me want to succeed even more and do better.”

This event was the first for newly appointed UMSL Chief of Staff Adella Jones, who agreed with the BFSA that in addition to amplifying the impact and accomplishments of Black faculty and staff, it is important for Black faculty and staff to inform education and curriculum as the university expands its reach in the community.

“It’s a very critical time as we transition and grow as a campus that the voices of the Black faculty and staff are there,” Jones said, “and judging from today, they will be.”

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Wendy Todd

Wendy Todd

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