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Spelman College Jumps Several Spots in U.S. News & World Report’s College Rankings, Remains No. 1 HBCU Share a Spelman College Press Release


Joyce Davis
Director of Marketing & Communications
Spelman College
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia

Spelman Ranking US News and World ReportATLANTA (Sept. 14, 2020) -- Spelman College moved up on multiple 2021 U.S. News & World Report college ranking lists. The College has increased its standing from No. 57 to No. 54 in the National Liberal Arts rankings. Five years ago, Spelman was No. 77. The rise in rankings is a testament to the College’s continuing efforts to improve its academic outcomes. Spelman is also listed as No. 4 on the list of Top Performers in Social Mobility, up from No. 6 last year. For the 14th year in a row, Spelman is the No. 1 historically Black college or university in the country

Up from No. 22 in 2020, the College has risen to No. 19 on the list for Undergraduate Teaching for National Liberal Arts Colleges. Spelman jumped 13 places, from No. 76 last year to No. 63 this year, on the list of First Year Experiences and is No. 10 on the list of Most Innovative Schools of National Liberal Arts Colleges. 

“U.S. News & World Report’s rankings acknowledge the quality academic experience our outstanding faculty provide our students,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., Spelman president. “We are especially proud of the recognition of undergraduate teaching, academic innovation and our ability to be effective as agents of social mobility.”

Spelman’s excellence continues to attract a robust pool of first year applicants. This year, Spelman received 9,115 applications. The 596 fall enrollees represent the largest incoming class in the last decade. Total enrollment tops 2,200 students for the fall semester.

“This year’s enrollment gains are a reflection of students and families understanding that our current times require the type of educational experience that only Spelman can provide,” said Ingrid Hayes, vice president of enrollment management.  “We prioritize academic excellence, leadership development, political and social awareness, historical context and service to aid and uplift all. These tools are essential for the next generation of innovators and change makers, no matter their chosen career disciplines.”

Spelman TeachingLiberal Arts
U.S. News’ National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking focuses almost exclusively on those institutions that offer an undergraduate education and award at least 50 percent of their degrees in the arts and sciences. Spelman’s wide range of liberal arts disciplines include outstanding programs in STEM, the humanities and the arts, including new programs in documentary filmmaking, curatorial studies, art history and photography.

Undergraduate Teaching
Spelman’s faculty are receiving significant grants, publishing valuable research and receiving recognition for innovative best practices. A selection of the College’s recent faculty excellence includes:

  • Four faculty members receive development awards funded the by Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. The recipients are Abayomi Ola, Ph.D., associate professor of art history, Division of Arts, Tiffany Oliver, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Shay Welch, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, Division of Humanities, and Erica Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of and chair of anthropology and sociology, Division of Social Sciences and Education. The professors research includes studying how visual satire in media plays a role in the struggle for political independence; the role of Near Infrared (NIR) light on the inhibition of cell death, cognitive enactivism and choreography as embodied critical inquiry; and the roles that sexuality and religiosity play in Black women’s political mobilization and social movement activism.
  • Natalie Watson-Singleton, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, received a $735,507 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to further develop a mobile-health app for African Americans. Results from Phase I revealed that African Americans who used the app for two weeks demonstrated significant reductions in stress. The Phase II of the project will allow Dr. Watson-Singleton to complete development on a fully-powered mHealth app designed to reduce the disproportionate rates of adverse stress-related health outcomes in the Black community like heart disease, diabetes and depression.
  • Angelino Viceisza, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, was selected as a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow and the John Stauffer National Fellow. Dr. Viceisza's research examines the microeconomics of poverty and wealth creation, particularly in developing countries.
  • The voices and the scholarly research of Spelman faculty, past and present, are reflected in the special edition of the Journal of Global Postcolonial Studies: Frontiers and Frameworks in African Diaspora Teaching and Scholarship.
  • The National Institutes of Health awarded Yonas Tekle, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, a $390,234 grant to further explore his research involving reproductive behavior in microbial amoeboids, a research program pioneered at Spelman. The three-year grant is a renewal of a previous successful NIH grant Dr. Tekle received in 2015. In one of their publications, Dr. Tekle and his students discovered a new species.
  • Andrea Lewis, Ph.D., C’96, associate professor and Education Department chair, and Nicole Taylor, Ph.D., C’2004, associate professor of education, were awarded research grants through the Center for Educational Opportunity at Albany State University. Dr. Lewis received an educational access grant to explore how racial identity, agency and exposure to culturally relevant school practices define the experiences of Black elementary school girls attending school in predominantly White communities. Dr. Taylor received an educational innovation grant to address the need to engage and accommodate families in their student’s learning experiences. She will focus primarily on African American families with elementary students enrolled in Title I schools.
  • ‘Dimeji Togunde, Ph.D., vice provost for global education and professor of international studies, was recently elected to the International Student Exchange Programs Board of Directors for a three-year term. ISEP’s Board of Directors consists of university presidents and faculty members, senior leaders in international education, non-profit and business leaders dedicated to ISEP’s core values.
  • Julie B. Johnson, Ph.D., lecturer in the Department of Dance Performance and Choreography,is among the inaugural cohort class of a three-year initiative created by Alternate ROOTS. Dr. Johnson’s project, "Idle Crimes & Heavy Work," illuminates the criminalization of Black women’s bodies, the erasure of Black women from discourses of incarceration, and the role their labor played in building the infrastructure of the south.
  • Anjanette Levert, documentary filmmaking lecturer in the Department of Art & Visual Culture, will join the third cohort of the Southern Producers Lab. Designed to bring together 10 emerging, diverse producers from around the South, the lab will address aspects of the industry that stifle emerging producers, including funding and financing, sales and distribution, story development, contracts, tax credits, rights and licensing, budgets and festival strategy. 

  • Innovation
    Spelman continues to develop innovative initiatives in terms of curriculum, faculty, students and campus life, including:

  • Tamara Pearson, Ph.D., C’96, was appointed inaugural director of the Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM. Established by a $2 million grant from the Department of Defense, the Center, which is the first of its kind, is designed to address minority underrepresentation in the natural sciences and mathematics fields. Prior to returning to her alma mater, Dr. Pearson served as associate director of school and community engagement in the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • Talitha M. Washington, Ph.D., C’96, was named the director of the AUCC Data Science Initiative. Launched in 2019, the initiative endeavors to dramatically increase the number of underrepresented minorities with credentials in data science and data analytics. The initiative also seeks to advance research using data science methods, especially in areas that impact minority communities. Serving most recently as a program director at the National Science Foundation, Dr. Washington has extensive experience that includes leadership in math education, research methodologies and partnership development. A tenured associate professor at Howard University, Dr. Washington was recently recognized by NSF as a Women’s History Maker and received the Black Engineer of the Year STEM Innovator Award.
  • Spelman plans to establish a new chair in Queer Studies, backed by a matching gift from philanthropist Jon Stryker of up to $2 million. This first-ever chair of its kind housed at an HBCU was named after celebrated poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde and is attached to the Comparative Women’s Studies Program housed at Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. Last year, Spelman began a fundraising campaign to raise $2 million. The chair is expected to be hired in 2021.
  • The Career Pathways Initiative, Spelman’s UNCF grant-funded project, celebrated the fourth year of its five-year term this year. Directed by Tinaz Pavri, Ph.D., division chair of social sciences, and co-directed by Harold Bell, director of Career Planning and Development, CPI ensures that faculty, staff and administrators work together as a team to achieve goals.

  • 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. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching and No. 4 for both innovation and social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit


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