Bethune-Cookman University: Leadership, Growth and Opportunities

By Keisha Boyd

Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) is one of Florida’s premiere higher education institutions.Over the past years, B-CU has strongly demonstrated its commitment to become the best small research driven University in the nation.The beachside university is home to nearly 5,000 students, staff and faculty and is excited about welcoming even more over the next few years. B-CU is a place of excellent leadership, continuous growth and unlimited opportunities. Under the leadership of President Edison O. Jackson, the University is Ascending to Greatness.

B-CU has hit several milestones over the last months.This year, the school reported record enrollment with more than 4,000 students enrolled. In addition, the largest class of freshmen was welcomed onto the campus for the Fall 2016 semester. With its increase in enrollment, the university is happy to be able to house 3,000 of its students on campus, the most in the school’s history.B-CU students are enjoying the luxury of its two new residence halls, the Thomas and Joyce Hanks Moorehead Residential Life Center (RLC) and another known as Phase II. Both halls offer modern housing and collaborative living and learning spaces and is the first major step toward positioning the University to upgrade all residential facilities. The University also announced plans for a four-story, 110,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art student life center. The new student nucleus of the campus will feature housing, student and food services, a wellness facility, an outdoor amphitheater, multiple outdoor lounges and more.

As B-CU continues to expand, the importance of quality and relevant academic programs are essential. B-CU announced the opening of its School of Religion and the Bob Billingslea School of Hospitality Management earlier this year. Rev. Dr. Randolph Bracy was appointed as the founding Dean of the new School of Religion, which offers bachelor’s degrees in Religion and Philosophy and Christian Ministry (pending SACSCOC approval). The School of Religion will train students to be servant leaders in industries that desire moral and ethical leadership.

Dr. Deanne Williams-Bryant serves as Dean of the Bob Billingslea School of Hospitality Management, which was created in honor of and is supported by University Trustee and retired Walt Disney executive, Dr. Bob Billingslea. Students seeking the bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management take a combination of courses in lodging, food servicing and tourism. The School offers opportunities with reputable companies including Walt Disney World, Marriott, Starwood, Hilton and Sodexo. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Management (ACPHA).

B-CU also celebrated the re-accreditation of its renowned School of Nursing by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Over the past academic year, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate increased by twenty-two percent (22%) from fifty-nine percent (59%) to eighty-one percent (81%), respectively. In addition, the Computer Engineering program received accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). To add to the academic excellence, eight of the University’s College of Education programs are now accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation; and the Music and Music Recording Technology Programs are accredited by the National Association for Schools of Music (NASM).

The University is experiencing growth, not just on-campus, but within its top-ranked Online College, as well.Lead by Dr. Arletha McSwain, B-CU’s Online College is still the only United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) certified program in the State of Florida and is the second HBCU in the nation to receive the certification.

President Jackson has a vision for B-CU to be known as a nationally recognized, research-centered university that just happens to be an HBCU. “Research is essential to the longevity of B-CU. We have so much talent in our faculty and students. We must showcase and publicize the great work they are doing here at B-CU,” says President Jackson. B-CU faculty submitted a total of forty-two (42) proposals, securing the University grants in the amount of $11,617,952.17. Dr. Diana Lee and Dr. Danyell Wilson were named winners of the 2016 HERI Research Scholar Leadership Program Award. Dr. Hector Torres received a $350,000.00 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate the development of top-tier STEM graduates. Dr. Bridgett Rahim-Williams, Associate Dean of Research for the Petrock College of Health Sciences, is conducting research regarding osteoarthritis in minority women supported by a $726,531.00 grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH).

B-CU is working hard to open up more doors of opportunity for its students. The University recently partnered with Arizona Summit Law (Summit) to offer graduates and alumni an opportunity to attend law school. Over twelve million dollars ($12M) in scholarships is offered to qualified students from B-CU and other HBCUs. To support the success of this venture, Summit and B-CU are developing an intensive LSAT-readiness program, establishing a pre-law institute that will prepare undergraduate students for law school, and creating a Three-Three Accelerated Legal Scholars Program that helps students get their undergraduate and law degrees in six (6) years. The partnership will also aid in the creation of a joint graduate degree program.

This year, the College of Business and Entrepreneurship(CBE) was recognized as Business Program of the Year at the 6th Annual HBCU Awards in Washington, D.C. Under the leadership of Dean Ida Wright, the CBE prepares students for careers in a myriad of business related fields and is home to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Development (CEED), which enables students to integrate and apply classroom-learned concepts with real-life experience through ventures such as providing free marketing and planning services to local residents and small businesses. B-CU was also nominated for President of the Year, Alumnus of the Year, and Male Coach of the Year.

Bethune-Cookman University is carrying the legacy of its beloved founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. She left a charge to educate and empower; and B-CU is committed to doing that and more. President Jackson is confident in his University family.  “B-CU is like none other.  Our students and alumni are brilliant.We have achieved great things and I know that God has so much more in store for us.”