Old Dominion University Scholar Studying Leadership Issues at HBCUs

Felecia Commodore, an assistant professor in the Darden College of Education’s Department of Educational Foundations & Leadership at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, studies the leadership of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities.

Commodore said there are unique aspects to HBCUs and unique challenges for administrators who run the institutions. Students who attend the schools are more likely to be the first in their families to attend college, and to receive Pell Grant funding. “It creates a difficult environment for leadership at these facilities,” she said. This difficult environment produces a high rate of turnover in HBCU leadership positions.

Further complicating the situation is that nearly 60 percent of sitting university presidents are over the age of 60. This presents the question of who will be the next generation of HBCU leaders.

Dr. Commodore, funded with a grant from the ECMC Foundation in Los Angeles and the Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan, is organizing a series of seminars designed to prepare scholars to become future HBCU leaders. The first of these sessions will take place this November.

“We are fortifying and identifying a HBCU presidential pipeline,” Dr. Commodore said. “There is a serious issue of turnover among senior leadership at these institutions, and there are inherent tools that HBCU presidents will need moving forward in the 21st century.”

Dr. Commodore is a graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she majored in marketing. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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