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Excellence in Education: Top Rankings and Honors Reveal Spelman College’s Academic Edge Share a Spelman College Press Release

Spelman College

Media Contact: 
Audrey Arthur
Spelman College
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia

ATLANTA (February 2, 2018) – For more than 137 years, Spelman College has been at the vanguard of the women’s and social justice movements ─ preparing generations of leaders to reform issues and develop policies affecting women and their respective communities. Spelman has also been recognized for its academic innovation, emphasis on global studies and success at cultivating accomplished students based on the College’s reputational excellence and cutting-edge undergraduate research opportunities.

Spelman’s academic rankings continue to ascend to the top of lists measuring educational merit. The College has received national honors exemplifying its students and leaders are on the right track to reach the College’s strategic goal: propelling Spelman into the top tier of liberal arts institutions.

The Spelman College Strategic Plan 2017-2022 includes four themes: Delivering the Spelman Promise, Elevating the Spelman Difference, Enhancing Operational Excellence and Promoting Academic Innovation, which are exemplified by the College’s 2017 fall semester accomplishments and recognitions.

    Ensure Every Spelmanite Graduates With a Competitive Edge
•    Prepare Students For Life and Career Through Curricular and Co-curricular  Activities
•    Streamline Student Processes
•    Create Robust High School to College Talent Pipeline

Spelman professors are preparing each graduate to be successful change agents in the 21st century work environment. Curricular and co-curricular activities are designed to arm students with skills that are essential to tomorrow’s workforce, which allow them to compete for scholarships, explore STEM-related fields and become global leaders.

Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall Creates Scholarship in Honor of Renowned Surgeon, Civil Rights Activist
Beverly Guy-SheftallBeverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D. C'66, founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and Anna Julia Cooper professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman, established the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program as well as a companion lecture series at Spelman that explores contemporary issues of race, gender and sexuality, beginning in 2018. The scholars program and lecture series were launched with a pledge of $100,000. Dr. Watkins, a Spelman honorary degree recipient, was the first surgeon to successfully implant an automatic heart defibrillator in a human. The late cousin of Dr. Guy-Sheftall, was a member of the Women’s Center’s National Advisory Board from its establishment in 2008 until his death in 2015, and a generous donor to its endowment campaign. “The Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars will call attention to the importance of making visible the courageous and significant work of LGBTQ scholar activists within and beyond the academy, especially at HBCUs,” said Dr. Guy-Sheftall.

Technology Fellows Gain Exposure to STEM Industry at HBCU Innovation Summit
Breonna JulyBreonna July, C'2018, (pictured) and Jayla Bell, C'2020, were two of four Spelman students selected as fellows for the 2017 UNCF HBCU Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley, California, Oct. 25-29. The computer information and sciences majors joined approximately 100 other fellows and 25 faculty from HBCUs for the summit, which aimed to cultivate student innovators and prepare them for careers in STEM and STEM-related fields. “This experience supports my post-college career plans by providing me with solid professional and personal career connections that can help mold me into the change agent I am destined to be,” said Bell said. She and three other students won first place for their project at the 2017 Square Code Camp, a program for college women interested in technology careers.

Spelman Recognized for its Global Approach to Learning
spelman_japan_smd150fe34f9bd6490bbe9ff0000b1c0f4Spelman is the recipient of NAFSA’s Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Campus Internationalization. "As the first HBCU to ever win the award, it is so gratifying that Spelman's long-term commitment to global learning is being recognized,” said ‘Dimeji Togunde, Ph.D., the associate provost for global education and professor of international studies who leads Spelman’s Going Global initiative. “The award also attests to Spelman's accomplishments in producing graduates who will traverse with ease through complex global, cultural landscapes and succeed as global leaders." Through the initiative, student participation in study abroad grew from 218 to 441, an increase of 102 percent in the last six years. During the same period, faculty global engagement increased by 107 percent. Study abroad destinations grew from 22 to 35 to encompass destinations other than European countries.

Bria Paige Awarded First Beyoncé Formation Scholarship
Formation Scholar Bria PaigeIn recognition of the one-year anniversary of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s critically-acclaimed, award-winning visual album, “Lemonade,” Bria Paige, C'2019, a Spelman English major, became one of the first 2017-2018 Formation Scholars. The new national scholarship funded by Parkwood Entertainment is based on merit and community service and supports the undergraduate or graduate pursuits of students in four fields of study: creative arts, music, literature and African-American studies. As a Formation Scholar, Paige received a $25,000 scholarship.

•    Publicize Expertise (in Science of Learning) to Provide Reputational Gains
•    Leverage Expertise to Promote Institutional Investment
•    Anchor the Spelman Narrative (Educational Excellence and Teaching and Learning Expertise)
•    Establish Requirements and Expand Strategic Partnerships

By anchoring the Spelman narrative in educational excellence and teaching and learning expertise, the College is producing reputational gains in numerous academic areas that result in funding to support institutional and faculty research, curriculum development and programming.

Spelman Biologist Receives NSF Grant for Horizontal Gene Transfer Research
Jennifer KovacsJennifer Kovacs, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, has been awarded a $603,123, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation to explore how organisms acquire new traits. The grant will also support Spelman student researchers. The project aims to identify, validate and characterize horizontal gene transfer in 15 species of blood-feeding and herbivorous arthropods. Dr. Kovacs noted the research is important to understanding how animals and plants evolve.

Theater & Performance Department Chair Awarded Arts Grant
Cosby Chair in the Humanities, Spelman CollegeAku Kadogo, chair of the Department of Theater & Performance, and poet and playwright Jessica Care Moore, are the recipients of a $64,000 Knights Arts Challenge grant. The grant will be used to advance the theater production “Salt City—We the Ones,” in collaboration with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Kadogo and Moore are developing the techno-inspired dance and theater production to be presented in 2018. Kadogo will direct the production written by Moore.

Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Receives SACS Award for Service
Myra BurnettMyra Burnett, Ph.D., vice president for Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness, is the recipient of the 2017 Carol Luthman Meritorious Service Award by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The award recognizes the recipient’s outstanding service to the SACSCOC, including volunteerism and commitment to the best principles of the academy. Dr. Burnett has served SACSCOC in several capacities, including chairing on-site, off-site and special peer review committees, helping to develop the criteria and training materials for institutional effectiveness and participating on the Peer Review Advisory Board.

•    Inspire an Efficient, Collaborative and Results-Oriented Culture Among Faculty and Staff
•    Invest in People and Infrastructure
•    Transform the Technology Environment
•    Cultivate Faculty and Staff Development and Retentio

Spelman’s investment in its students, faculty, staff, technology and infrastructure has had a significant and measurable impact on the College and surrounding communities. Spelman continues to develop strategic alliances and broaden its approach to learning, which studies show result in better career opportunities and lifetime earnings for graduates.

Spelman Receives Favorable Fifth-Year Review by SACSCOC
Spelman's Economic ImpactSpelman has successfully concluded its fifth-year interim review for regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. During the December 2017 SACSCOC annual meeting, Spelman was notified of the favorable review of its September 2017 Referral Report. The Referral Report provided supplementary information on the September 2016 Fifth-Year Interim Report in areas related to adequacy of physical space, student complaint policy adherence and student learning outcomes. The Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness led the College’s fifth-year interim review effort.

Spelman Makes Multi-Million-Dollar Economic Impact, Study Shows
Agrads landmark study commissioned by UNCF shows Spelman is a valuable economic engine in the Atlanta community. The study “HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” reveals Spelman generates $199 million in total economic impact for the metro Atlanta area. The College creates approximately 1,625 jobs, while yielding substantial economic returns year after year for local and regional economies. Key findings of the study, which is based on 2014 data, focused on three areas: total economic impact, employment and lifetime earning of graduates.

Spelman Innovation Lab and MIT Launch Long-Distance Learning Project
scienceThe Spelman College Innovation Lab has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pilot a two-way portable broadcast system to teach fabricating and prototyping remotely. “Television Studio in a Suitcase” is an affordable, miniaturized system designed by MIT to teach technology online. For the pilot program, MIT offered the course “Introduction to Microcontrollers” to Spelman students last spring. A camera in the Spelman Innovation Lab broadcast to the team at MIT, allowing for two-way communication and teaching. The project is part of MIT’s Code Next initiative to inspire a new generation of computer scientists, innovators and inventors from underserved populations. More classes are planned through the collaboration with MIT, organized by Jerry Volcy, Ph.D., Brown-Simmons computer and information sciences professor and director of the Innovation Lab at Spelman.

•    Support Scholarly and Creative Excellence
•    Invest in Art and Technology Integration
•    Expand Signature Academic Programs
•    Integrate Living, Learning and Leadership Opportunities

Spelman professors are pioneers in liberal arts and education; cultivating an authentic environment that is nationally recognized as a unique educational experience for women of the African Diaspora. Spelman is committed to investing in signature academic programs and partnering with organizations that align with its commitment to social justice and advocacy.
Groundbreaking Filmmaker Julie Dash Joins Spelman as Distinguished Professor  Distinguished Professor in the Arts Julie DashPioneering filmmaker Julie Dash, M.F.A., has joined Spelman as the Distinguished Professor in the Arts for the 2017-2018 academic year. As Distinguished Professor, she is helping to develop the new documentary filmmaking major in the Department of Art & Visual Culture. Professor Dash broke through racial and gender boundaries and made history as the first African-American woman to have a wide theatrical release of a feature film when her Sundance award-winning movie, “Daughters of the Dust,” was released in 1991. In 2012, the film was inducted into the National Film Registry, making her the only African-American woman with a feature film in the Registry. Professor Dash recently directed multiple episodes of the television drama “Queen Sugar” for OWN.

Spelman Adding Two New Academic Majors in the Fall 2017
Spelman has approved two new academic majors. Starting in fall 2017, bachelor’s degree programs were offered in photography and documentary filmmaking. The new photography major aims to create visual storytellers who consider and explore the complicated role photography plays in contemporary culture. The program requires students to elevate casual image making to the formal study of the photographic image. In addition, the College’s Digital Moving Image Salon has expanded to become the documentary filmmaking major. In the same way that DMIS teaches students to analyze films and use digital media tools to produce documentary films that focus on the lived experiences of women of color, the new documentary filmmaking program merges traditional documentary film strategies with emerging approaches to create new forms of storytelling. Both new majors, approved in April 2017, are part of the Department of Art & Visual Culture, formerly the Department of Art & Art History.

Department of Education to Offer Teacher Certification to Music Majors  
The Department of Education partnered with the Department of Music to develop a P-12 teaching certificate program that began being offered to music majors in the spring 2018 semester. Students will take the Georgia required certification courses, complete field and clinical hours and pass the two state assessments for new teachers. “It is significant that we offer the certification to music majors because there is a national shortage of Black educators overall and a critical need for more educators in the arts,” said Andrea Lewis, Ph.D., C’96, chair of the Department of Education and assistant professor.

Spelman Selected as One of Nation’s First Campus Centers for Truth and Racial Healing     
Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation  Logo (web)The Association of American Colleges and Universities selected Spelman as one of 10 institutions to serve as inaugural sites for the first Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers. With support from the Newman’s Own Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, AAC&U will guide the development of the TRHT Campus Centers as part of a multi-year initiative to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders to work toward transformative change on race in America. Spelman’s TRHT Center will serve as a focal point for the College’s ongoing service and advocacy activities related to racial injustices. TRHT supports the College’s mission of producing graduates who are empowered to address inequities in society.

Spelman experienced significant improvements in virtually every national ranking that measures academic, intellectual and educational excellence. Some of the rankings include:
•    U.S. News and World Report Best Liberal Arts Colleges (increase of 11 points)
•    The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings (No. 3 for student inspiration)
•    The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings (increase from No. 105 to No. 101)
•    HBCU rankings in The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News & World Report (No. 1 on both lists)
•    Institute for International Education Open Door rankings for study abroad (increase from No. 29 to No. 25)

To learn more about Spelman and its academic programs, visit

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman; Starbucks COO Rosalind Brewer, Broadway producer Alia Jones, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, Harvard professor Evelynn Hammonds, author Pearl Cleage; and actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson. For more information, visit


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