New Yale commitment strengthens ties to HBCUs

Yale has announced a major new initiative to strengthen the university’s partnership with the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Harkness Tower

(Illustration by Eri Griffin)

Yale has announced a major new initiative to strengthen the university’s partnership with the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), whose mission is centered on the education of Black Americans.

Over the next five years, Yale will commit $2 million annually, for a total of $10 million, to establish the Alliance for Scholarship, Collaboration, Engagement, Networking, and Development (ASCEND), Yale Provost Scott Strobel and Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Gary Désir wrote in a message March 5.

The new partnership is the latest in a continuing series of university commitments in response to the findings of a long-term examination of Yale’s historical role in and association with slavery, which are described in a new book, “Yale and Slavery: A History,” which is also available in a free digital version. Several other commitments and actions were announced on Feb. 16.

The acronym, ASCEND, represents the partnership's goal of achieving even greater milestones for Yale and all participating institutions. 

This initiative will deepen the relationship between HBCUs and Yale through bidirectional partnerships centered on research, teaching, and access for students,” Strobel and Désir wrote. “In particular, ASCEND programming will support research collaborations between HBCU and Yale faculty, provide resources for HBCU faculty research projects, and expand pathway programs for HBCU students.

These programs, planned with HBCU partners, commit to increasing representation and amplifying the significant contributions of HBCUs in shaping the academic landscape.”

The creation of ASCEND represents “part of the continuing work to address our history,”

Fostering excellence in teaching and research

In their message, Strobel and Désir described new programs, which will launch this spring, to create dynamic partnerships between faculty at HBCUs and Yale.

New faculty collaboration grants will provide funding to HBCU and Yale faculty who conduct research that transcends institutional boundaries, encourages interdisciplinary inquiry, and uses collective expertise to tackle global challenges, they said. These grants encourage faculty to combine their perspectives and scholarly strengths to create novel insights and outcomes.

Faculty research fellowships will offer financial support for HBCU faculty members to pursue ambitious research projects at Yale for a semester or summer, enabling research collaborations, access to Yale’s collections, and engagement with other university resources. Fellows will be appointed to the appropriate academic department, program, institute, or center at Yale.

Teaching fellowships will support HBCU and Yale faculty who form a collaborative teaching arrangement or offer joint course experiences. These fellowships will also support exploratory projects or research inquiries that arise from partnerships between HBCU and Yale faculty.

Increasing educational access

The ASCEND initiative will also expand existing pathway programs to provide opportunities to more students from HBCUs.

Beginning this year, Yale will expand the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program, which creates opportunities for undergraduates from around the country to explore and prepare for Ph.D.-level careers in research. Yale encourages applications from students attending HBCU partner institutions, as well as students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, are first-generation college students, or have faced significant obstacles in pursuit of higher education.

This fall, Yale will additionally increase the number of HBCU graduates who participate in post-baccalaureate programs. Offered through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, these programs give post-baccalaureate fellows the opportunity to conduct independent research under the supervision of a faculty member, meet first-year graduate students, and participate in workshops that prepare them for application to Ph.D. programs.

To date, Yale has signed institutional agreements with five HBCUs: Claflin University, Hampton University, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Tuskegee University. The university expects to add to this list of partners in the coming months.

Hampton University — which is located only a few miles from where the earliest enslaved Africans were brought, and which is home to the Emancipation Oak where African Americans gathered to hear the first southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation — “is uniquely prepared to partner with Yale in the spirit of truth and reconciliation to create and expand opportunities in research and scholarship for students and faculty from our historic universities,” said Hampton's president,  Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Darrell K. Williams.

The Hampton-Yale partnership will allow us to leverage and amplify our unique strengths to educate and empower scholars and leaders who are committed to bending the universe’s moral arc toward justice,” he said.

In their message, Strobel and Désir said the university’s new commitments will “build bridges between academic communities and advance representation across disciplines,” and they encouraged Yale faculty members to participate in these programs and connect with colleagues at partner institutions.

To learn more about the opportunities for faculty collaboration, visit the ASCEND website.

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