Actress Phylicia Rashad Named Dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts

Howard University has hired a well-known actress and stage director to serve as the dean of the school’s recently reestablished College of Fine Arts.

Phylicia Rashad

Phylicia Rashad, 72, who played Claire Huxtable on “The College Show,” will begin her post on July 1, 2021.

Rashad who graduated magna cum laude from Howard in 1970 with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree will undoubtedly catapult the school’s theater and directing programs—which has a reputation of producing actors like the late Chadwick Boseman—to greater heights.

“I can think of no one individual better suited to take on this role than Ms. Phylicia Rashad,” said Howard’s president, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. “Given Ms. Rashad’s reputation as well as her capabilities and impressive lists of accomplishments, she will undoubtedly empower the college to transcend even our incredibly high expectations. Under her leadership, Howard will continue to inspire and cultivate the artists, and leaders who will shape our niche and national cultures for generations to come.”

While it’s rare to see actors take on administrative roles at colleges and universities, it is not unprecedented. Actor Clifton Davis, who starred in such television shows as “Amen” and  “That’s My Mama,” served as vice chancellor for development at Elizabeth City State University in the early 2000s.

Experts predict that Rashad’s visibility on campus will undoubtedly help the university maintain its connection with the acting community, while also helping to secure deep philanthropic gifts from weathy donor.

“It is an honor to welcome one of Howard’s acclaimed daughters back home to Alma Mater,” said Dr. Anthony K. Wutoh, the university’s provost. “In this full circle moment, Ms. Phylicia Rashad will take the training and skills that she honed as a student at Howard and exuded in an outstanding performing career, and she will share those pearls of wisdom with the next generation of students in the College of Fine Arts. Her passion for the arts and student success makes her a perfect fit for this role,” he added.

In a versatile career that has spanned more than four decades, Rashad has been recognized with a Tony Award, an NAACP Image Award and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. She is the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates from mostly historically Black colleges and universities including Howard, Spelman College, Tuskegee, St. Augustine College, Clark Atlanta and Morris Brown College.

But it was her role as Claire Huxtable, the tough and loving mother and lawyer on “The Cosby Show” that introduced Rashad to millions of viewers in the 1980s. Thanks to reruns of the show across the years, a new generation of students have become familiar with the sitcom.

Academia is not entirely new to Rashad. She has served a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member at a number of colleges and universities, including Howard, New York University and Julliard and was the first recipient of the Denzel Washington Chair in Theater at Fordham University.

“It is a privilege to serve in this capacity and to work with the Howard University administration, faculty and students in reestablishing the College of Fine Arts,” said Rashad.

On Wednesday, Spelman College, an HBCU in Atlanta, announced that it was naming its arts center after actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson and her husband, actor Samuel L. Jackson. LaTanya is an alumnus of Spelman and Samuel L. Jackson is a graduate of neighboring Morehouse College.

“The love that both Latanya and Sam continue to exhibit for Spelman since their time on stage decades ago is heartwarming,” said Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell. “These living legends met and acted together on stage on our campus. Their dedication to their artistry will leave a legacy that will inspire students in the Atlanta University Center for years to come.”

Walter Hudson can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Philadelphia Fed’s Webinar Focuses on Financial Impact and Challenges of COVID-19 on Higher Ed Institutions

Last year, campus-wide shutdowns resulted in financial reimbursement for students and employee furloughs at higher education institutions across the country.

To provide support, the federal government passed several relief packages including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Dr. Patrick T. Harker

But even as colleges and universities plan to reopen their campuses for in-person learning, the economic effects of COVID-19 will continue to linger.

Over the next five years, revenue loss is projected to reach between $70 billion and $115 billion with 80% of institutions impacted. Public colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and institutions with less than 1,000 students are predicted to be the hardest hit, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

“As we emerge from this pandemic, I want to call on federal and state governments — and American society — to recommit to public postsecondary education, which remains the indispensable tool for economic and social mobility and to educating our citizenry,” said Dr. Patrick T. Harker, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Fed and the former president of the University of Delaware. “Higher education is an industry. But it is also a public good.”

To further understand the economic and overall impact of the pandemic, the Philadelphia Fed hosted a virtual webinar on Wednesday titled, “Symposium on Institutions of Higher Education: Financial Viability and COVID-19.

While transition to online learning created cost advantages for colleges and universities, how the pivot impact students’ learning?

Dr. Michael Kofoed, an assistant professor of economics at the United States Military Academy, presented his research—focused on measuring learning differences—during the symposium. Students were randomly assigned to either an in-person or online environment with the same instructor, course model, assignments and tests. The only difference was the “teaching modality.”

According to hi findings, online students completed their assignments at a lower rate which translated to lower exam scores. Additionally, students who participated in an online course were more likely to feel isolated, less connected with their peers, faced difficulty concentrating and held perceptions that their instructors cared about them less.

“While online instruction may lower costs for institutions, it also has the potential to perhaps lower learning outcomes, particularly for institutions that specialize in that kind of deep mentorship and the on-campus experience.” said Kofoed.

Dr. Pam Y. Eddinger

Outside of structural changes at the institutional level, COVID-19 also exacerbated affordability and access challenges.

High unemployment rates led to a decrease in enrollment at colleges and universities.

Over the next decade, 75% of the jobs in New England, for example, will need some form of postsecondary education, according to Bunker Hill Community College President Dr. Pam Y. Eddinger.

“This, to me, is more of a workforce investment than anything else,” she added. “Making university K-12 has not broken our society, it has not broken the higher ed system. So adding two more years onto it is not going to have the destructive effect that everybody is thinking about.”

Dr. Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers University, agreed that the free community college proposal that has been proposed by President Biden is a “smart investment” and four-year institutions will adjust accordingly. However, he remained concerned about its sustainability if there is a presidential transition or a flip in the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate.

“Okay, we set up expectations and something gets implemented in about two years, let’s say,” said Holloway. “And then it only lasts for another four years and its gone. Four years is better than none but it’s just something that we have to be mindful of.”

With “community” embedded in its name, community colleges have long served as a “hub” for offering social services and meeting basic needs such as food security and broadband access. However, with COVID-19 related campus shutdowns, the infrastructure fell apart, said Eddinger.

Outside of community colleges, more higher education institutions have also taken on roles within their communities.

With a medical school and hospital, Howard University has become a “trusted” messenger within the Washington D.C. community by addressing vaccine hesitancy, setting up testing centers and increasing access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“I still have an image of a 103-year-old Black women getting vaccinated by one of our nursing students,” said Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard. “That right there, having the community feel the full cycle of the generational movement, as it were, I think is important…At the end of the day, the amplification of the humanity is what we see ourselves doing more.”

Sarah Wood can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Dr. José Luis Alvarado Named Dean of Fordham University Graduate School of Education

Dr. José Luis Alvarado will be dean of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education, effective July 1, 2021.

José Luis Alvarado

Alvarado has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, the founding dean of the College of Education at California State University Monterey Bay, and associate dean of the College of Education at San Diego State University.  

“Vision setting and goal setting about the school’s direction need to have a collective understanding among the administration and faculty,” said Alvarado. “One area of emphasis is the need for interdisciplinary work or cross-pollination of disciplines. For example, students specializing in special education need to interact with students in school psychology and general education. This is what they will be doing in the real-world setting.”





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