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Spelman College

President's Letter to the Community

Good News About Spelman

October 15, 2015

Dear Spelman Community,

In the two months since I joined the Spelman community as president, I have been embraced and welcomed by students, faculty, staff, alumnae and friends. My travels have taken me around the country where I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with alumnae who impressed upon me the College’s lasting impact beyond its gates. I’ve also had productive listening sessions with faculty, students and staff who confirmed we are a community deeply committed to Spelman’s upward trajectory. The following good news about the College affirms our continued ascent: 

First in the World Grant. Out of more than 300 applicants across the U.S., Spelman is one of just two colleges in Georgia – and among only three historically Black colleges nationwide – to be named a 2015 First in the World (FITW) grant recipient by the U.S. Department of Education. Spelman will receive $2.7 million to incorporate new teaching and learning strategies into our curriculum and student experience, and faculty and peer tutors will be trained on metacognitive learning, a system defined as “thinking about thinking.” These techniques will equip students with sound learning strategies and increase the likelihood that they will achieve a college degree.

Notably, those who reviewed our application judged the pedagogical approach, methodology and evaluation plans included in our FITW submission as exemplary. I want to thank Dr. Myra Burnett, interim provost; Helga Greenfield, chief of staff to the president and associate vice president for Title III and Government Relations; Dr. Francesina Jackson, director of the Center for Academic Planning and Success, and Dr. Jimmeka Guillory, assistant professor of psychology. They are supported by experimental economist Dr. Angelino Viceisza, sociologist Dr. Bruce Wade, and quantitative psychologist Dr. A. Nayena Blankson, as well as an advisory committee of researchers and educators from around the country.

These five dedicated Spelman faculty members from four different departments collaborated on this winning interdisciplinary proposal, which won a near-perfect score in the first-tier review. Dr. Desiree Pedescleaux, dean of undergraduate studies, was active in the advising of this proposal team, and Dr. Claudia Scholz, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, provided excellent leadership as well.

Brown-Simmons Professorship. I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Jerry Volcy, a highly respected member of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS), as the recipient of the Brown-Simmons Professorship. This term professorship was established as part of our $12M Mellon matching grant with a generous gift from The John and Rosemary Brown Family Foundation. I am particularly excited about this gift because it speaks to the value of excellence in teaching and scholarship, and I know you join me in congratulating Dr. Volcy on his appointment.

Nancy Elizabeth Prophet Scholarship. Recently, we were notified of a generous bequest ($1.5M when fully realized) from an anonymous donor to establish an endowed scholarship at Spelman. The donor was active in the arts during her lifetime, and therefore the scholarship will be named in honor of sculptor Nancy Elizabeth Prophet (1890-1960). In 1932, Spelman worked in collaboration with Atlanta University to establish the Department of Art and Art History at Spelman where Nancy Elizabeth Prophet was a founding faculty member. The scholarship will be open to qualified students from all disciplines, and the first award will be made in the 2016-2017 academic year. 

“Choice Neighborhood” Grant. Earlier this month, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the Atlanta Housing Authority and the Mayor’s Office are the recipients of a $30M “Choice Neighborhood Grant” from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On my fourth day as president, the College hosted the grant-related HUD site visit on Spelman’s campus. As we expected, the Atlanta University Center (AUC) is located in one of the neighborhoods targeted for revitalization efforts as part of the award. The development of a vibrant college town that connects the AUC to downtown Atlanta and creates a lively community for our students and the people who live in our community is imperative for the continued health of the College. 

This is just a snapshot of the exciting initiatives happening at Spelman. As a newcomer, it is thrilling to witness the much-deserved recognition given to our dedicated faculty, and to see the commitment of our staff, donors, alumnae and volunteers to our students. 


Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.