As the newly appointed dean, my second week began amidst an Arctic storm, starkly contrasting to my Louisiana roots, where anything below 70 degrees is considered cold. The storm caused schools and businesses to start late, reminding me of last week’s surprise when I arrived early only to find a two-hour delay.
Despite the chill, stepping onto the campus filled me with warmth. I decided to brave the cold for a walk to the campus cafe, a place buzzing with the unique energy only found at a black college, a testament to the magic of our culture.
On my way, I was greeted enthusiastically by Oscar, a student from California. His sprint across the campus to give me a high-five was a heartwarming welcome. We laughed as I recounted my junior high band days at Eden Garden Junior High (Shreveport), where I was promised the trombone but ended up with the tuba.
The cashier’s warm welcome in the cafe added to the day’s charm. After pondering over the menu, I chose a traditional breakfast. It was then that I met Michael T. from the Bahamas. He was excited to meet his new dean. His kindness and respect toward me, a strange new dean, humbled me. Michael provided me with some grits, which is a fan favorite of mine, for breakfast. Can you really be Southern without loving a hot bowl of grits? My Louisiana conscious would say ‘No!’
The day’s highlight was a visit from Ms. Carter, a business and honors student from New Orleans. Her accent immediately revealed our shared Louisiana heritage, and we chatted with the ease and familiarity unique to those from the same region.
As a black college graduate and now a dean, I realize that my role is not just administrative but cultural. I understand the role of fostering an environment where the black experience is respected and celebrated. Through my interactions on campus, I hope to inspire and nurture the next generation of culturally intelligent leaders who will carry forward the legacy of our rich and diverse black heritage. It was a good week!