Prairie View A&M University in Texas Creates the Toni Morrison Writing Program

Historically Black Prairie View A&M Univerity in Texas announced that a Toni Morrison Writing Program would be established at the university in honor of the writer and her former student, MacKenzie Scott, who donated $50 million to the University in October 2020. Part of that donation – $3 million – will be designated to endow the Morrison Writing Program. MacKenzie Scott was a student of Professor Morrison at Princeton University.

The new Writing Program will include a Toni Morrison Writer-in-Residence. Appointed annually, a different writer each year will have a one-year visiting appointment at Prairie View, where that individual will offer a seminar in writing. The Toni Morrison Writer-in-Residence will hold public readings of Morrison’s work and that of other writers to bring visibility to the importance of writing and the legacy of African American writers, especially those educated at historically Black colleges and universities. Professor Morrison was a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C. In addition, the Toni Morrison Writing Program will sponsor a high school writing contest. The winner of the competition will receive a college scholarship.

Emma Joahanne Thomas-Smith, provost emerita at Prairie View A&M University, will oversee the Toni Morrison Writing Program. With decades of experience in higher education, Dr. Thomas-Smith previously led the university’s Honors Program and the Department of English and Languages. “Faculty and staff of both the university and local high schools will share in the activities of the program and benefit from the Writer-in-Residence and other artists representing the full range of literary genres,” said Dr. Thomas-Smith.

Dr. Thomas Smith is a graduate of Tuskegee University, where she majored in English. She holds a master’s degree in educational administration from New Mexico Highlands University and a doctorate in higher education planning and governance from Washington State University.

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  1. Without much effort, I can think of better uses for the funds Prairie View A&M is receiving from MacKenzie Scott.

    How about upgrading Prairie View’s woefully inadequate IT systems, or establishing a special reserve fund for building maintenance, so that the University’s physical infrastructure doesn’t deteriorate when there are funding shortfalls in future years. Or hiring teams of writers to revise and improve the most important science and IT textbooks — to make the subjects they cover more accessible to undergraduate students. Or providing University faculty with professional help to improve their effectiveness in the classroom.

    Three million dollars should do a lot more than provide one student scholarship and a cushy job to one Writer-in-Residence at a time.

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