Was The HBCU Experience Necessary For My Success? Maybe. Maybe Not. » VSB

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Was The HBCU Experience Necessary For My Success? Maybe. Maybe Not.

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I have a friend who I consider to be uber-successful. I have very successful friends. Every one of my immediate closest friends from college has at least one advanced degree. A few have Ph.D.s. Some own their own businesses. Some of us are married. Some of us are parents. Point is, everybody, on paper and in real life, both personally and professionally, seems to be doing very well.

But I have one friend who is truly bodying the game in my opinion. His name is Dr. Manu O. Platt, Ph.D. He’s got a Ph.D. in biology/biomedical engineering from Georgia Tech and Emory University and is an assistant professor at both schools. He runs his own lab and gets huge grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund it. He routinely travels to do work in South Africa, Kenya, Puerto Rico, and probably other places that I just don’t know about. I’m not even 100 percent sure what it is that he’s doing but I do know that it will a) change the world; and b) likely head this young man towards the road to a Nobel prize one day. Hell, he JUST ended up on the cover of a magazine celebrating his achievements, along with other super notable individuals in education. Point is, my boy is the man in these streets and I couldn’t be prouder of him.

Another thing he does that makes me proud is give back to our alma mater and to the community at large through service. He does a lot of work mentoring Morehouse students and he also works with high school students in Atlanta from communities of color trying to get them into STEM programs. My man is changing the world and giving back. That long intro brings me to a conversation that we all had last night. My boy is in town because of a program he runs at Georgia Tech (peep the article, its good to see Black people doing big things in STEM) that brings high school students from marginalized communities in Atlanta into Georgia Tech to work on research. One of his students was invited by the White House to come to DC to be part of a tw0-person panel entitled “Front and Center: Bringing Marginalized Girls into STEM and Career and Technical Education.” That, my friends, is a big deal.

IMG_9181Well, last night, he corralled all of us who are here in DC to come together to show this high school senior that people can be both uber-successful AND still down to earth, and to talk to her about attending an HBCU…well, Spelman. She has yet to make up her mind as to where she’s going to go, but as a Morehouse Man and by default Spelman supporter, he figured it can’t hurt to bring us all together to talk to her and give her some guidance and pointers. (Just an FYI, Spelman and Morehouse have a dual degree program with Georgia Tech for engineering majors.)

This young lady is of course very bright, hence being invited to come to DC to speak to people as a high school senior, so the list of places she’s been accepted to and received full scholarships from was very impressive. I can’t rattle the names off of the top of my head, but I immediately congratulated her mother on doing such a great job raising a child who is going places. So the conversation came up about why somebody should go to an HBCU versus a PWI. And to be honest, despite my uber rah rah attitude about attending an HBCU, nothing that I could say OR that was said sounded like THE reason that an HBCU is a better choice over any particular PWI. In our community we have these arguments all of the time. HBCU folks feel like our education was better than that of a PWI for various reasons; PWI alumns feel like their education was better for a similar set of reasons. The only thing I’ve really learned about this debate is that PWI folks are super defensive about their not having attended an HBCU (it’s true, suck it up), and HBCU folks (well a segment of us that attended certain HBCUs) are mad protective AND patronizing towards PWI about their reasons for not attending one (its true, suck it up). Look, we love our HBCUs and very little can be said to convince any of us who enjoyed our time there that our experience didn’t whip the PWI school experience’s ass.

As my friends all talked about why Morehouse and Spelman were so great and shared many stories from our good ole college days…over 14 years ago (!!!!!!!!), I was waiting for what made the experience the one that was necessary. I have lots of friends who went to school at PWIs who have substantial Black networks. Many are Greek. Some just know all the Black people. They found support systems. They made memories. They graduated. They moved on to bigger and better things. Now, it is also entirely possible that there’s selection bias. There does seem to be an inordinate number of associates of mine who are legitamately doing shit with their lives. I also live in DC where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a Black person doing something. So being in DC might not be an adequate representation of what things are really like elsewhere. Maybe folks are out here struggling because they didn’t get the support they needed in college. Yo no se. But I’d wager that the differences between many of our educations is marginal and come down to specific experiences.

What I do know is that the experience I had was priceless. The sense of being around that many Black people who were all focused on bettering themselves through education is beautiful. Nobody had to worry about what percentage of us were Black on campus so raicials issues weren’t our bag, baby. It did teach me resilience and on-the-spot problem solving while I was at the registrar’s office being told I never received a scholarship and pulled my scholarship offer and acceptance paper out of my wallet (true story) and they’re like, “okay, cool”. I learned things at Morehouse I just don’t think I’d get elsewhere. And I say that partially because of my experiences in grad school with Black folks who went to PWIs. We just came from different worlds and perspectives. Can I say one was better? No. I can’t. I do tend to think my experiences stood out as more invaluable as the PWI Black students talked about wishing they had as much school and Black pride as they saw all of us Morehouse dudes (three of us from Morehouse went to my PWI for grad school together in the same department). There is something about being a Morehouse Man or a Spelman Woman or a Howard grad or a Hamptonian that I’m not sure you get being from other schools. I could be overstating, but I’ve had enough conversations to make me think that if I am, its not too far off base.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t go to Morehouse for any of that. I went because one of my best friends from high school – who til this day is still one of my best friends – got into Morehouse and got a scholarship and was like, “yo, P, you should go here and we can be roommates.” I was like, “ok.” Hey, if it was good enough for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Happy Birthday) I suppose it was good enough for me. I had received full scholarships from a laundry list of schools that we all know and respect but nothing drew me to any place in particular. So I applied, got a scholarship and the rest was history. I had the fortune of being invited to a summer program for STEM majors where I would eventually meet the men I call my best friends to this very day (they’re ALL my daughter’s godfathers), two of whom were at dinner last night with me talking to this young lady about her future. That summer program cemented my decision to attend Morehouse as the right one.

I know that I wouldn’t have had the experiences I had with the friends I had them with at a PWI. The friendships I made were priceless. The type of people who attend an HBCU are exactly who my friends are. I love that. We got the full value out of that education and the vast majority of it wasn’t in the classroom. The support, the sense of pride, the immediate requirement to know and understand that you are Black and that makes you somebody is something that I carry with me everywhere. Morehouse Men are notoriously arrogant and at times every bit of the jackass we’re purported to be. However, there’s nothing like knowing that you’re the man, regardless. I remember taking a class called Professional Development where the professor (RIP) was talking about how you present yourself at an interview. He told us, “say you have a 2.0 and you have an interview and they ask you about it. Conventional wisdom is to try to explain it away through pitfalls and/or hardship. This is wrong. Look at me, Black men. You better march your ass into that interviews office like that’s the best damn 2.0 he will ever see in his life. By the time you’re done, he should wish he had one. Know your worth. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be valuable. And you are all valuable, some of you just don’t realize it yet.” This is a lesson I have carried with me everywhere in life. Sure it could come from anywhere, but it held extra weight coming from a Black man that I respected who gave of his time and life to help me succeed. I was confident before I got to Morehouse. I learned that my confidence was okay and expected when I got there. Priceless.

Would I have been just as successful at a PWI? I think so. Would my friends? Absolutely. But would we be the people we are today? I’m not sure. But, I’m glad we are who we are and I’m glad part of that was shaped by where we attended. Attending an HBCU, and particularly Morehouse, was one of the best decisions of my life.

So what shaped your experience? What made it special? Any regrets? Did the school you went to shape who you are today?

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Andrea

    When I went to visit Yale. The speech is, “If You wanna be a Supreme Court Justice? I wouldn’t go to Cornell if I were you”. That is true. What is it? They have only come from Harvard, Yale and maybe Columbia.
    I told my cousin, “If You want a PhD in Math? I wouldn’t go to a PWI if I were you”. I believe that is true to. I haven’t crunched the numbers. But my cousin is a Black Woman. And Black women Phd’s have all come from not Harvard, Not Yale, and Not Columbia.

    • Damon Young

      Interesting. I know about 10 Black women with stem PhDs, and none went to Ivy League schools

      • Andrea

        My cousin wants a PhD in Math! I should probably just finally do the arithmetic. And get the exact number. But all the Black Math Women come out of/from a HBCU….there’s only like 2 people.

        • pls

          I have a BS in math from a pwi. tryna get back, but i doubt i’ll pursue Doctorate in math, prolly just MS

          • Andrea

            NICE!

        • NomadaNare

          I have a friend doing/finishing/finished a PhD in Math at a prestigious Uni. I can put you in touch with her if it would help.

          • Andrea

            Yeah I know a bunch (hyperbole) that finished at Ivy’s. I’m just saying the 1 degree of separation between all of us who graduated/ “Made It” lies in the roots of an HBCU. I’m sure we are already mutually connected.

            • NomadaNare

              Dig sauce, I agree. I hope everything works out for your cuz!

        • panamajackson

          I do know quite a few women with PhDs in math, they all went to UMD but went to various HBCUs for undergrad.

          • Andrea

            UMD. That’s where everybody went. They had a big article when THREE graduated at the Same D@mn Time.

          • Bluberry01

            Shoutout to the Terps! #terpgang

  • Penn Alum

    Love love love this! As a PWI-educated Bougie Black Girl, there was definitely something irreplaceable about having a black female advisor and a cultural center to call home amidst all the crazy. I know this debate is as old as Coke vs. Pepsi, Backstreet vs. N’Sync, but I tell young ppl I work with all the time that your university shapes your attitude, values, networks, and opportunities, so take the time to explore your options. PWI or HBCU, public or private, 4-year or 2-year, it all depends on the individual. But we need more testimonials like this!!

  • NomadaNare

    This is an issue that is near and dear to me. I did the HBCU/PWI combo in STEM, have multiple degrees from both style of school, and can say there are huge differences between the two that work themselves into pretty distinct pros and cons. TBH, you have to know what you want in the end to most effectively use the advantages of both schools, however not doing this won’t keep you out of some place if you don’t, but knowing these things will make your life easier. Some schools are better suited for certain goals then others and HBCUs are no different from PWIs when understanding this. It’s a big long and drawn out discussion, but I’ve had this talk with many a student at all levels from elementary to grad school. There’s a lot more than I could ever relate here, but the broader strokes are:

    HBCUs are about mentorship and community. If you want to go to the next level in academia you can do it from here, but realize that unless you go out of your way to embarrass your classmates you’ll likely be behind the curve because most HBCU’s simply don’t offer the same opportunities with regards to extracurriculars. They’re akin to smaller liberal arts PWIs in that they may have one or two super star faculty and one or two super star fields in any particular department but all of their students graduate and are competent. You’re also more likely to have a helpful and well placed network of friends and professors that will actually help you get where you want in your career. You will also most likely gain a sense of self here.

    Large/Prestigious PWIs are a business with education treated as the product. Quite simply, you are on your own. Very little mentorship, or help but the opportunities are more varied and plentiful. Also it’s important to realize that when you fail, you fail plain and outright. You are also more likely to fail here because of racism, apathy, personal vendettas, etc. but if you can excel at one of these you are ready for anything academia can throw at you, and will be ahead of the curve. Your resume will be more readily picked up (especially if you have a white sounding name) which is great because your professional network will likely be thin. You’re more likely as a black person to come out assimilated or the token from here.

    Just my opinions.

    • Damon Young

      good comment

    • Well said. I think I would have chafed at the community at a HBCU because I’m very much a free spirit. Plus, I spent K-12 at small schools, and keeping it real, I was sick of people in my grill. LOL That said, I know people are different. You’re so right about your mileage varying though. I just wish more people got that.

      • MeridianBurst

        I obviously would have chafed at an HBCU. My parents made sure I went to prestigious schools all throughout my education and unfortunately they had mostly white people in them. Not to mention I just have a personality that has……a lot of range. It’s….esoteric. *coughs* So, I don’t think I would’ve gelled at an HBCU.

        • NomadaNare

          I thought I would be that kid when I attended my HBCU. What happened though is that I found most other groups whatever their defining characteristic more likely to accept me for who I was, because they had actually seen/met/knew someone like me before. I’m esoteric too, but it was amazing for me to find a place for me to be my type of black. I haven’t experienced anything like that since, however I need that sort of space less since graduating.

          • MeridianBurst

            While I have found a black social group after graduating, I still always feel really self conscious about my particular brand of blackness. I always know before I do or say something that it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb. It kind of bothers me to always be aware of that. My friends do a good job of like, I don’t know. Supporting me I guess. Or flowing with me. There’s still always that sense of being on the outskirts of the norm though, even if I’ve found people who can rock with me (which was hard af to find). I think I’m experiencing what I would’ve experienced had I gone to an HBCU.

            • panamajackson

              I’m not saying that you’re odd, but I am saying that what I found most surprising about being at an HBCU is that there were damn near ALL types of interesting people. Don’t discount who is at HBCUs. It ain’t all cool kids who have a middle of the road mentality. Extremes on all sides of every topic exist.

              • MeridianBurst

                I’m not. I just don’t think I would have gotten along with most people, and that clearly is an accurate assessment. I never discounted who is at HBCUs. I just know there would have been a reality of difficulty there in how we adjust to each other in a social setting.

        • Val

          I’m not sure why you think there aren’t other Black people like you who do or have attended HBCUs. My experience was that there were all sorts of people and personalities. And people from all sorts of different backgrounds. So, it just sounds as though you have some sort of preconceived bias that has nothing to do with reality.

          • MeridianBurst

            I’m pretty sure the reality is that majority of black people would have a hard time getting along with and relating to me. That’s a fact. That isn’t to say that there wouldn’t have been a handful of people I would’ve had similarities with, but that me in an all black environment would have had a hard time adjusting and so would most of the people around me. Maybe you just missed the point.

            • Epsilonicus

              I get it. For me I have a hard time adding new Black people to my friends list (and new white people but thats a long other story.). The vast majority of my Black friends are people I grew up with. I have a few Black friends I met as adults (2 in college who are in the “Circle’) but they not as close as the ones from my childhood. The friends from my childhood understand and accept me in a way that people I meet as an adult do not.

              • MeridianBurst

                There are 7 black people I was friends with from K-12 and none of us talk anymore. My mom kept in touch with their parents and are still close friends with about three of them. I just didn’t have a whole lot of people to hold on to and the people I did have, we just grew apart over time. Our lives went in different directions. It’s kind of nice to see that people can have such lasting friendships and hopefully the people I meet now can be that for me. It’s just hard having to make such bonds with people out of nothing in adulthood.

            • Val

              Okay. All I’m saying is don’t underestimate the numbers of different types of people that attend HBCUs.

              • MeridianBurst

                And I’m saying that wasn’t even the point of my comment.

              • It really is a different world. Personally, HBCU’s really opened me up because for a while i had only know two types of black ppl (hood and church folk who got advanced degrees in religion). I didn’t really fit into either one. BUT MAN. College showed me not only options as a prosfessional, but gave me a myriad of options and role models to help me become an individual. Racial and survival issues can be suffocating. I learned how to stop drowning in my own skin. Now i’m doin the backstroke and sh*t.

                • LeeLee

                  “College showed me not only options as a professional, but gave me a myriad of options and role models to help me become an individual.”

                  Role models and mentors are so clutch! They have a wealth of information and experience to learn from. I saw, hung out with and learned from so many different types of black folk at my HBCU.

        • esoteric in what way

          • MeridianBurst

            I don’t know. Apparently I’m different enough that black people find me completely offputting. I happen to think I’m easily understood and digested.

            • NomadaNare

              I think a good number of us have at some point have had the “I’m the most different black person to ever exist” mentality. It happens and is probably a result of what we’re exposed to as mainstream blackness while growing up. I don’t know you, but at the very least from your online persona, it seems that you and I would get along. I mean do you have a horn growing from your forehead of mottled elbow skin?

              • MeridianBurst

                lol. I am finding your comments really comforting. Nodding along and such. And no I don’t lol. But I do have a beauty mark on my cheek so, I hope that isn’t a problem.

                • NomadaNare

                  As long as it doesn’t talk, we’re good. But seriously, don’t count yourself out before you meet people! I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were actually *looking* for the type of person I was.

                  • MeridianBurst

                    lol! That gives me a new perception of it. I’m pretty sure there are people out there that would consider me a fit. ^_^

              • Val

                This is what I was saying except my response was a little less patient since it seemed like she was stereotyping the Black people who attend HBCUs as being common and so they couldn’t possibly relate to a person with an “esoteric personality” but of course White folks at PWIs could.

                • MeridianBurst

                  Or….maybe you just overreacted to something I didn’t actually say, imply, or allude to. Probably because it’s a thing you do of being hyper defensive about HBCUs. It’s silly and annoying, but mostly unnecessary.

                  • Val

                    “Not to mention I just have a personality that has……a lot of range.
                    It’s….esoteric. *coughs* So, I don’t think I would’ve gelled at an
                    HBCU.”

                    You can pretend you didn’t say what you said. That’s fine. But, you’re the one who is annoying with your bias and stereotyping of people you don’t even know. You are obviously one of those Black people who think they’re unicorns and that no other Black person on the planet can relate to them.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      What part of that sentence stereotyped HBCUs and the people who attend them? -_-

                    • Eh, I think that this particular discussion could be more effective and enlightening with less opaque language and more specifics. Between Black people I know, specifically men, it’s definitely easier to be “out” at school like Hampshire than it would at a Morehouse or A&M. Or being a non-Christian.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      Funny you said this because I had a few black gay male friends of mine say something similar a few days ago

                    • Andrea

                      I just had to throw in. Didn’t they just tell the fellas at Morehouse they couldn’t wear heels to class anymore? Heck even back in my day. They seemed pretty “out” to me.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      Doesn’t mean it is easy

                    • MeridianBurst

                      It never is having differences from the majority. I’m not sure how I’m a bad person for pointing that out, but my point is that when you don’t have a lot in common with people it’s difficult to relate to one another. Something I experience with black people for whatever reason. Val apparently thinks me believing I’m a good person or even that I’m extraordinary is a horrible quality to have. I wonder if she also believes all black people have to inherently assume they’re no better than the next person.

                    • Val

                      “Val apparently thinks me believing I’m a good person or even that I’m extraordinary is a horrible quality to have.”

                      Okay, now you’re just an outright liar. I never said or intimated anything of the sort.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      So, I AM allowed to think of myself as a beautiful unicorn? That’s okay with you then?

                    • Val

                      You’re deranged. Lol I wish I had known that before we started this conversation.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      You didn’t answer my question. Is it okay with you that I inherently believe I’m a good person?

                    • Out while feeling safe, comfortable, and part of the greater community.

                    • Val

                      Lissen, Malik, I know you haven’t watched the Eagles doc yet but there’s another one you should check out. It’s about rock/ jazz drummer Ginger Baker. It’s called Beware of Mr Baker. You’ll really like it. It’s on Netflix.

                      Also, what was the name of the film you recommended last week? I’m getting a list together for the holiday weekend.

                    • I’m like 67% sure it was Betty Blue. It’s not on Netflix though. Should be in any big Barnes and Noble foreign film section though. Ginger Baker? Sounds like the name of a jazz drummer.

                    • Val

                      Both jazz and rock. Yep, it was Betty Blue.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I wonder why you didn’t bring this up yesterday when I was talking about my interest in jazz and rock, or why today, when I was having a relatively good moment of connectivity, you decided to enter the conversation by throwing dirt in my face.

                      Or why when I ask you questions that would cause you to elaborate on the disconnect we’re experiencing, you insult me instead of actually addressing the bit of contention you seem to have.

                      Wouldn’t it have made more sense to see that I like rock and jazz, that I wish I had gone to an HBCU, that I wanted to join a sorority, and just…identified with me in this moment? It hurt my feelings that you handled it the way you did. That’s kind of lame of you.

                    • Love, this was a little extra.

                    • Ricky, I don’t know how you do it, but you stay saying the most with the least characters. lol

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I just want to know why she approached me like that. Seems like in a moment where she could’ve bonded with me, she just wanted someone to punk and insult. I legit don’t get it so I want to talk it out. Is that bad or weird of me?

                    • Andrea

                      I just wanted to let you know in this moment that I appreciate your voice here. That feeling comes from how kind you have been to me in our exchanges. I really have greatly appreciated your kindness towards me.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I appreciate yours too. I always thought it was nice how accepting you are, not just of me but of people in general. It made me feel like there are more me’s out there in the world.

                    • Andrea

                      I like you a lot. I hope that doesn’t sound weird. Even though I obviously don’t know you. But I feel your beautiful spirit!

                    • MeridianBurst

                      It doesn’t sound weird at all. It actually sounds like how normal people speak to each other. And likewise!

                    • Andrea

                      You know I am having trouble getting used to the internet. The social part of it. I hang around a lot of older people. If they even knew that I commented on blogs….they wouldn’t really “Get” what I was actually talking about or doing. I have like 1 friend who does Facebook. The rest probably have never visited instagram or twitter. It makes me feel out of place here. Like I don’t know if I’m commenting properly? If that makes any sense at all. Malik made some comment about “not knowing someone like that”. I don’t understand who knows each other “like that”? II don’t get how it works. BUT. It has been a great outlet for me to vent during this past year of what was it…5 surgeries. So I’m grateful I started to comment. Even if everyone thinks I’m nuts or has diagnosed me with PTSD. LOL. It has really helped me get through this year.

                    • Val

                      Wow. I totally didn’t think you thought my comment about PTSD was anything other than my concern considering the context of that conversation. If you did I’m sorry. And it certainly was not to make it seem as though you were “nuts”.

                    • Andrea

                      No. No. No. I know you meant it from a good place. And it is TRUE. And I know you didn’t mean any harm by it.
                      As I was saying to Meridian I’m still getting comfortable trying to find my comfort level with all this new internet stuff. I have wanted to share a lot about some of the things I have been dealing with because I thought it may connect with someone else as well. But then I get embarrassed when I Remember that other people can see this. And I’m like OMG what am I doing???? Me and the “nuts” thing is just my own insecurities. I guess I should be over it by now. I’m sure everyone’s seen pictures of me bewbless at this point. Not a lot left for me to hide:)
                      And again I totally took your comment lovingly!

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I’m just glad that there are people who comprehend you when you express things you deal with and are willing to relate to you on them. It’s something that has been difficult to find in people in my actual life and seems to get magnified for me on the internet.

                    • Andrea

                      What city are you in?

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I’d rather not be too specific in these e-streets but I live in the DMV.

                    • Andrea

                      You can come to the Party! Or if maybe that’s not your speed…maybe we can do something sometime. Tea, tequila, whatever. If you don’t mind an ‘ole lady who moves a lil slow sometimes.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I was considering it. I thought it would be too odd. I was kind of lowkey happy the other day because I didn’t realize so many people here are from the area. It would be nice to hang out some time.

                    • Andrea

                      347.613.DREA

                    • Wild Cougar

                      I get you, too. It’s sad how often “we” jump down someone’s throat who says their experience with Black folks has not been welcoming and they respond with a very unwelcoming judgmental tirade. It’s like the same thing all over again. I tell you my true perspective and experience and you invalidate it and call me crazy for expressing it. Going in circles……

                    • Val

                      You really need to read the entire conversation to know what’s going on.

                    • The tea is nice and strong in the thread today. I like it!

                    • Val

                      Lol. OMG, AP. You have no idea!

                    • I don’t even fool with people who speak ill of the products of HBCU’s. Honestly, HBCU’s put out, by far, the majority of black professionals in this country.

                      It’s not even close when you measure the numbers but I let black PWI graduates cook because we all have these expensive pieces of paper that say we took “x” amount of credit hours.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      ….I wasn’t one of them. Which is why Val couldn’t actually answer my questions or point out where I specifically said something against HBCU attendees. Maybe you “let us cook” because there was nothing to be angry at or offended by in the first place.

                    • Your piece of paper and my piece of paper say we took “x” amount of credit hours and they we are proficient in our respective fields. The classrooms we sat in are the only difference. I’m just glad we got out to be honest. Not everyone makes it and not everyone needs an expensive piece of paper to make a living.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I think that too. I honestly don’t even care who went to an HBCU or a PWI. I’m just happy to see people who are doing great things and I assumed we all felt that way about each other.

                    • I think we (HBCU Graduates) fiercely defend our alma maters because they represent so much historically. It wasn’t too long ago that the very PWIs many VSS/VSB earned their degrees from weren’t opening their doors to us. I will always beam with pride at the very mention of Howard University as I assume any alum would no matter what the institution of higher learning.

                      We have this PWI/HBCU discussion at least once a year here lol. I’ve learned quite a bit from both sides. I like to know that black people flourish in any environment. We’re so gahdam resilient and that’s a beautiful thing. Where one of us falls short, the others pitch in and carry that load. PWI, HBCU, The Streets, we outchea regardless.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      You SHOULD have pride in your alma maters. I’m not one to care when people feel like stunting on themselves or what they’re about. It’s the reason why my standalone comment was so bubbly. I didn’t attend an HBCU because I didn’t grow up around a lot of black people and we just tend to grate on each other’s nerves. That wasn’t really saying they were bad schools so there was nothing to defend. I was more interested in shared experiences, common ground, and hearing how people were out here prospering.

                    • Rachmo

                      “Not everyone makes it and not everyone needs an expensive piece of paper to make a living.”- Ironically considering my PWI pride, I’ve become the defacto HBCU advocate at my recruiting firm. I’m the only one that has a working knowledge of HBCUs and which ones are good. I always find myself in resume meetings yelling “No no no that’s a real school it’s an HBCU. It’s a good place” so they don’t dismiss it. Sigh.

                    • :-) You’re a gem.

                    • Rachmo

                      Val Shade nourishes me.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Val didn’t shade anyone. She reacted to me looking down my nose at her and the school she went to. If anything, you’re nourished by her insecurities because you find them relatable.

                    • Rachmo

                      This is one of those sitches where you have to read the room. I’ve been joking about Val’s shade for a while bc it is the chilliest sweater weather shade of all time. I’m not really invested in you guys argument bc I can’t follow it. It’s a joke that AP probably got.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      No it isn’t.

                    • Rachmo

                      What isn’t?

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Read your comment, then read mine, and answer your own question.

                    • Rachmo

                      Tbh if I could answer my own question I wouldn’t be asking you. You know what? It’s whatever. Have a blessed day.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Dah Well. Not like anything was going to come out of the conversation anyway. Toodles.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Right. The fact of the matter is I stated a reality that going to an HBCU would have been rough for me and the people around me. Rational adults decided to pick up on that and relate to what I was saying. Val on the other hand found it necessary to act out what I was referring to, as an alumni of an HBCU. I’m just glad she volunteered herself to be my example of why I attended a PWI.

                    • SororSalsa

                      Meridian, I get what you’re saying, but unless you went to an HBCU, your generalizations of the people there are coming from….what exactly? What you’ve heard from other people? From your interactions with people here? The HBCU experience isn’t for everyone, and whatever school you chose is great for you. But as much as you’re saying that folks are attacking you, that first post smacked of a bit of elitism that might be why folks don’t tend to get you.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      You guys are going to stop telling me I generalized people at HBCUs. You inferred that. You assumed that. Maybe you guys are just insecure as f*ck about the differences we have. That’s not my problem.

                    • SororSalsa

                      I don’t assume you hate me. I don’t care what you think about me, because you’re real quick to call everyone who doesn’t agree with you insecure. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      No, I’m not. People who were offended by comment are insecure. People who keep assigning this belief to me that I was judging HBCU attendees as less than me are insecure. You just happened to fit the bill. At any rate, if it doesn’t matter what I think of people it shouldn’t have been a problem even if I did say all of you were less than.

                    • SororSalsa

                      Completely. Missed the point. But okay.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Oh well. Sucks for you.

                    • I’m not invested in you and Val’s tiff–at all. I really was just commenting on Ricky’s talent for tone in a short amount of words. #dassit

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Oh. I thought perhaps you were agreeing with him by complimenting how he called it extra. But this works for me!

                    • MeridianBurst

                      It was supposed to be. She pissed me off and I want her to see how stupid it was that she didn’t just approach me and say “I get it”. She wanted to walk up and mush me in my face and now I want to drag the stupidity of out of her.

                    • I got you and I understand your frustration. I definitely do. I’m often there right with you. However, if you wanted to communicate with her you should have been straight-forward with what and how you felt and how you identify in a way that didn’t make you feel open and bare to someone you aren’t that cool with.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I just was and you told me I was extra. I’m not ashamed of hurt feelings. I would’ve been ashamed of myself had I actually reacted to the part of me that felt insulted and angry. Being open isn’t so bad. How else would I learn to connect with people if I wasn’t willing to be open to some extent?

                    • As someone who is frequently hyperbolic (for rhetorical effect) and dramatic it was extra. I do the same thing. No shade or tea or what-have-you. I was referring to prior to that comment. Like how you could of elaborated on how and why you felt the way you do that (Val or anyone else) wouldn’t interpret as special snowflake.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      You’re assigning a flaw to me that is inaccurate. Val had the opportunity to elaborate on the problem she was having with me and in her seeing that we have something in common, she could have and should have been willing to be forthcoming. She attempted to start an argument. It was stupid and it was extra. Me trying to have a legitimate conversation about it is mature and an indication of being a well adjusted adult. I’m not sure what you mean by “special snowflake”.

                      Is the problem that I inherently believe I’m a good person? Which shouldn’t be offensive to her or anyone else for that matter. Or that I recognize I have differences from the majority of black people? Which is a reality that I DID elaborate on.

                    • I apologize for projecting.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      It’s okay lol. It’s not a big deal. I just want to know what the disconnect is so that it can be resolved. I don’t quite understand what the issue is.

                    • *hugs*

                    • MeridianBurst

                      I feel like I’m missing something. A hug makes me acutely aware of that. I feel weird.

                    • I like giving and showing affection.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Being showed affection isn’t something I’m used to.

                    • it’s what I do. that’s a consequence for interacting with me :)

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Then I guess we should do this more often then. ^_^

                    • rawr

                    • Val

                      No, the problem was that you lied about what I said. It’s not possible to have an honest and open conversation when one party is being dishonest. You can play innocent for sympathy if you want but all you or anyone else has to do is read the conversation.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Anyone who reads the conversation would see that I implied my personality chafes black people, and that going to an HBCU would have meant experiencing a lot of contentious interactions in my social life. That is a reality. We could have talked about that, much like it was talked about with everyone else in the thread.

                      Instead, you, someone who is admittedly overzealous on such matters, entered that space after misinterpreting the message of my comment. Then you called me deranged. Then you called me a liar. You avoided speaking to me when I asked you to elaborate on how you reached that conclusion, because you knew your reasoning was faulty. You didn’t even answer me when I asked you to specifically point out where I said what you accused me of.

                      So, what is the real reason you approached me the way you did?

                    • Val

                      See, you are skipping the most vital part of the conversation. The part where you said this to Eps:

                      “Val apparently thinks me believing I’m a good person or even that I’m
                      extraordinary is a horrible quality to have. I wonder if she also
                      believes all black people have to inherently assume they’re no better
                      than the next person.”

                      Please show me where I said this or anything like this. This comment is why I called you a liar and deranged. When you just make up stuff in the middle of a conversation what is one supposed to think?

                    • MeridianBurst

                      That has nothing to do with the original comment you made to me, or the reason you assigned a belief to me that I didn’t actually express. I’m trying to figure out what, specifically, about my comment to Todd and in a space where I was connecting with other black people, made you come into the middle of it calling me names. Especially when you observed we have a few things in common.

                    • Val

                      Did you read what I just wrote? I have no idea what you are talking about.

                      Is someone else reading this who can explain to me what she’s talking about?

                      And, you did not answer why you lied about what I said. Jeez.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Yes. I’m choosing not to process it because you’re being avoidant about the fact that you initially made a mistake about me and in your interpretation of what I was saying. I asked you a question. You didn’t answer. You didn’t elaborate. That happened first so that’s what we’re going to deal with first. Otherwise we have nothing more to talk about.

                    • Val

                      Okay then.

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Cool. Hopefully now that you got your petty swipe in you can stop lurking around me so half cocked. Smh. *continues my offensive prancing*

                    • MeridianBurst

                      You didn’t answer my question.

            • I get where you’re coming from. It’s why I’m slow to open up

              • MeridianBurst

                I think it’s made me cold. I’m a certain way and I’m used to it sitting kind of funny with people, so now I’m just numb in new settings. I don’t even have the belief that I will connect anymore so it’s made me generally cold to others.

                • IcePrincess

                  Try not to do that girl. Once you think like that, they’ve already won.

                  • MeridianBurst

                    It gets kind of old. It also kind of sucks to look at people and think you could be friends, but then there’s so much tension there you really just dismiss the possibility.

            • IcePrincess

              Wow, you & I are >here< on that. I totally feel you even if it might sound crazy to some. "My people" find me off putting as well, even when I try my best to tone down my accent & conform ????

              • MeridianBurst

                It’s a common thing that transcends race I think. I actually put effort into toning down parts of myself because I think it makes it easier for people to digest me. It still doesn’t work. I can’t say that I’m surprised but tis why it’s better to be closed and numb in the first place.

                • IcePrincess

                  Closed & numb, nah. See, the way my personality is set up…. I ain’t finna shrink for nobody. You can like me or not. We all came in this world alone & we gonna leave this b*tch alone. In the meantime, this lil light of mine, I’m gon let it shine!! ????

                  • panamajackson

                    *waves church fan* lol.

                  • Lea Thrace

                    ^^That’s why I roll with Ice

        • SororSalsa

          Upon arriving at my HBCU, I was promptly branded “the Buppie from Northern VA. Trust, you can find people like you everyone. We all like to think we’re special snowflakes, but….yeah. You so different, but probably not “that” different. I grew up in a predominately white neighborhood, and my mother (a Spelman grad), suggested that I go to an HBCU for the experience. I don’t think I understood then why I needed that experience, but she was right. That was the first time I’d been in the majority, and it was eye opening. I ended up at a PWI for grad school, and my HBCU tenure made me appreciate the good (and bad) aspects of PWI’s. Anyone who knows what “validation” is knows that getting a degree from an HBCU is an accomplishment in more ways than one. That is dedication, perseverance and patience in unending amounts. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It made me who I am.

          • MeridianBurst

            People love labeling differences and arguing over them. I didn’t feel like dealing with that sh*t as a norm of my college experience and it hurt that I missed out on being with my people because of it. I know I’m not “that” different but I’m well aware black people prefer treating me like I’m some sort of anomaly. It wasn’t worth it. I just went somewhere that was more accepting of me and more natural to navigate. Oh well.

      • NomadaNare

        There are free spirits at HBCUs, Todd. We just would’ve made fun of you for being libertarian. :)

      • Free spirits still get love at HBCU’s.

        • Also, I wanted the large school experience, and HBCUs only have so many people. I have such eclectic interests that it would have been an awkward fit.

          • I definitely feel yo uon that bruh. Anytime we wanted to something out of the norm we basically had to organize it ourselves. Even in that we learned a degree of self sufficience.

    • S Emm

      I don’t necessarily agree with this. I went to Penn State and my experience was the same as Panama mentioned above. I think it depends on the school. One thing I’ve learned with PWI’s is that the Black community is tight knit because we all have similar experiences. I have strong lifelong relationships with people because of this. But Penn State is also a school of immense pride with the largest alumni network in the country. And I’ve DEFINITELY used that to my benefit. But I was definitely able to gain mentorship, a familial atmosphere, AND ENORMOUS school pride. Walk to a bar during college football season and scream We Are and guaranteed you hear a Penn State. Even after college, our Black alumni network does so much.

      To me it’s really about the personal experience. I know people who went to HBCU’s and HATED their experience and I know people who attended PWI’s and HATED it as well. So it’s what YOU made of your experience.

      • I’m with you. Just be prepared to be very sad September 19th. Jussayin’ man. ;-) I have zero problems hating on a brother. LOL

      • NomadaNare

        Are you American? I’m not asking this to prove a point, but there is some interplay of nationalities that I’ve noticed. About the relationships this is something I’ve noticed as well, but it takes on a different quality at PWI. I can only speak from the graduate perspective at a PWI, but what I’ve noticed is that those with PWI backgrounds tend to have social groups made up of white students, whereas those with HBCU backgrounds tend to recreate what they found at their undergrad. This isn’t bad or good, but I know as a result of my experience I need to see some black people at least some of the time. Also, what I’ve noticed at both schools is that the personal issues are EPIC. Who’s dating whom, beefing, etc. But at a PWI when you strike out with one group of black people, you’ve got nowhere else to go.

    • LeeLee

      “Large/Prestigious PWIs are a business with education treated as the product. Quite simply, you are on your own. Very little mentorship, or help but the opportunities are more varied and plentiful. Also it’s important to realize that when you fail, you fail plain and outright. You are also more likely to fail here because of racism, apathy, personal vendettas, etc.”

      As a woman who went to an HBCU undergrad and PWI for grad, you hit the nail on the head with PWIs!!!! I had to learn this the HARD way. It was the first time that I had met college level professors who did not care if I learned the material or not. I felt extremely sad and alone. So much so that a Jewish sociology professor whose class I was taking recommended a black counselor for me to talk to. He didn’t even KNOW me, but could tell, I guess by my behavior, that I needed someone to vent to. I didn’t know I needed it, but I did. As an introvert used to a more nurturing environment, my PWI experience left a bad taste in my mouth. But you know what? Looking back, I probably needed to go through that. Roughest time in my life. It was a good, humbling lesson, but a VERY hard one. I still bear the scars……….

      • NomadaNare

        My first year at PWI was probably the worst year I’ve ever experienced in life and I’ve been homeless as an adult before. The trick was figuring out that it wasn’t about the lofty ideas of academia which weren’t dashed out of me as an undergrad. In my graduate experience, graduate PWIs are about producing, not about learning and quite simply no one wants to hear your excuses, regardless of if they’re legitimate or not. Internalizing this has made me a more resilient person but also somewhat jaded me as an academic. I’m choosing right now whether to continue as a professor (surprisingly, I have a tenure track offer as a fourth year humblebrag) or go make all the money. I’m leaning towards the money right now.

        • Go get that paper dawg. Tenure is nice, but the Doubling ain’t happening in our working lives ever again. The way academia is trending now, it’s more a calling than a living.

          • NomadaNare

            LOL @ doubling. This is exponential. humblebrag.

      • Wild Cougar

        That’s interesting. It never occurred to me to expect professors to care if I passed or failed. I just assumed I was an adult, I was paying for it, so it was on me. I think I probably needed that given my personality

        • Rachmo

          We don’t often agree but I have to give you this one. I’m an internally driven person and I did get help at my PWI, I just had to seek it out. I once had a math major teach me business calculus in six hours the night before a final to ace it :-) But that was an idea that EYE Rachmo came up with bc I knew I would fail without help.

          • LeeLee

            “I’m an internally driven person and I did get help at my PWI, I just had to seek it out.”

            I hear you. I am internally driven as well. I did seek out help with my school work from professors but did not receive it. To add insult to injury, I saw my other classmates receive it. Where I went, there were “favorites.” Such is life. One particular incident sticks out where I asked for help and was waved away because he was helping someone else. She was the all-american, blond hair, blue eye star student. I waited until he was finished with her and went back. He told me to “figure it out.” My money was green just like hers, but for some reason, she didn’t have to “figure it out.” Some people had to “figure it out” and some people got help, extra tips and guidance with what they didn’t know. I expected graduate school to be a “safe space” where I could learn, fail, fall down and get back up again. Ask questions and have professors invest in my intellectual curiosity, which other people, like you, received. I think that’s great, but it wasn’t my experience. But you know what? That’s life. Some people will struggle harder than others. And some people (not saying you personally) will get inside tips, tricks and mentoring based on their likeability, looks, gender, pedigree, etc. Life ain’t fair. But GOD…..HE matched my efforts, and my counselor vouched for my experiences. Since my professors didn’t care, I didn’t think a counselor would either but he was a God-send :) I kept a log of everything. So much more happened that I will not go into here, but I am very glad that you had a positive experience. All experiences, even negative ones, teach us something :)

            • Rachmo

              Yeah my professors definitely were NOT the most helpful. At Pitt, especially in the business schools our teachers were big on favorites. I never made it to a favorite in a class although God knows I tried! I’d have to say most of my help came from their TAs (BIG UPS TO RECITATIONS) and wiggling my way into group projects with people smarter than myself who could teach me what was going on. I was in a business fraternity as well so the older students were really helpful in informally tutoring us. I informally tutored people in the subjects that were my stronger points and got help from classmates on the weaker ones. I’m lucky that I figured out pretty quickly that the professors weren’t going to be helpful and learned about the magic of group studying.

              Edit: Also my counselor was a Black woman so that was super helpful. God bless the counselors dude.

          • AlwaysCC

            once i realized that the athletes at my pwi had the BEST resources on campus, i started studying with them and using the aids that their tutors provided. #changedmylife

          • Hostile Negress

            You took the words right out of my mouth. I went to a PWI and while you did not get all of this automatic closeness, you could create whatever you needed to create. I had an astronomy class that was a little tricky. I remember I went to the professors office hours and that woman spent the entire 2 hours just getting me up to speed because she was so impressed that somebody actually showed up to her office hours. There were countless times when someone help me with tutoring or showed me where to go to get some extra credit activity etc. So the concept that a predominately white college is cold and mean is not a fair one. On the other hand lots of my friends went to black schools had a lot of that family experience and I felt like it was actually a little suffocating ; I just don’t want my professors inquiring about the status of my uterus you know what I mean? So I really think that the PWI vs HBCU argument comes a lot down to what you want as a person: me I just didn’t want my educators to do anything but educate me. And that’s what I gotta at a PWI – come to class, don’t be rapin nobody give us our money and keep your GPA up or you got to get the hell out. That’s exactly what i expexted and I would not have changed it .

            It seems to me like so many HBCU alums put the focus on this concept of all of these softer qualities of their schools while shifting the focus away from things that I think they should really be pissed off about specifically that a lot of times they are paying $30,000 a year and not getting access to basic things like uptodate dormitories. Panama having to pull out proof that he had a scholarship… I mean I’m glad that he had the wherewithal as a young person to handle that situation, but why is that something that you should have to even do when you’re paying that much? That’s the type of shit that I just don’t understand. I think that as alumni HBCU graduates need to stop defending that shit as some beautiful rite of passage – fuck that noise!!!I personally saw more than one person whose education was potentially waylaid based on foolishment from Howard University that’s just not cool and that’s not an HBCU vs PWI discussion that’s a what the fuck is happening discussion!

            Its also why, while I definitely went over to Howard to hang out at the end of the night I had to get back on that Green Line and get my ass back out to College Park (University of Maryland stand up!!!). It is what it is I don’t hate on anybody for where they wanted to go I think its just personal preference.

        • LeeLee

          I hear you and agree, that I was an adult. But I came to learn. If all I had to do was teach myself, I could have saved a BOAT load of money, lol! But we all come into situations with different expectations and everyone learns differently. I would describe my experience as hell, not interesting. There is so much more to my story than what I wrote . I cared whether or not I passed. I passed and graduated with a respectable GPA. But there was one particular class that I struggled in, and sought out help. Was told to figure it out, when my grades and questions during office hours reflected that I had tried to figure it out and was obviously not doing a good job at it :) I called, set up office hours, etc. Meanwhile, my classmates were getting help. Innocently, they would tell me about being allowed to skip certain activities or being given guides to help with certain things that I did not get. They didn’t know I wasn’t getting that too. One guy told me that a professor I had reached out to had approached him and asked if I had an attitude problem. He was shocked and told her I didn’t. When I reached out to professors at my HBCU, and they saw I was putting in effort but needed help connecting the dots, they were there. It wasn’t just a check to them, they cared about their students. I’m very glad you had a positive PWI experience, because I would not wish what I went through on anybody! And I’m so grateful for that Jewish professor who did care and saw something was going on put me in touch with a wonderful counselor who helped me document everything that happened. I didn’t think a counselor would care since my professor didn’t but it was the BEST decision. I’m in such a better place now and learned so much from that experience!

        • NomadaNare

          In my experience, it was a bit more than that though. I had professors at my PWI that actively set out to fail students and in addition you’re always competing with all your other classmates. It’s cut throat and I guess it’s hard to really describe without going into details. *shrug*

        • Careful she bites

          I agree. I went to PWI’s for under and grad. I had the expectation, when I went to college, that a lot of what I got out of it was what I put into it. Yes, there were some professors who had zero f*cks to give about whether I passed or failed. But I did and made it my responsibility to speak to them (if I could and sometimes that didn’t help) and/or align myself with other students and study groups. I had three GREAT professors who offered me tremendous support. There were times when it was really hard. There were times when I felt extremely alienated (try sitting in an auditorium and there’s only MAYBE 2 other Black Americans there). I feel like it prepared me to deal with issues of being Black in America from a completely different perspective than an HBCU but still a useful perspective. I don’t have the same lasting friendships as my friends that went to HBCU’s and I don’t necessarily know that I would if I hadn’t gone to a PWI (bit of an introvert) but…maybe.

    • Julian Ross

      What up Ram?

      Never having attended a PWI, but contrasting my HBCU STEM experience with some other friends of mine, the mentorship and guidance vs facilities statement is spot on.

      • Andrea

        I urge my cousin who wants to do the Phd in Math to spend her summers at Harvard or somewhere. So she can get exposure to the facilities, the academics, all of the resources of Harvard.

        • Look into those programs. Most of the Ivys and many flagship state schools have them. They’re worthwhile, but they’re a great networking opportunity.

      • WORD. Since graduating, I’ve managed to deal with all sorts of different people, and that’s been my experience. While you can land a good mentor, a good mentor can’t pull eight figures for a bomb a$$ core facility.

      • NomadaNare

        Watup Fam. Long time no see. You still way out West? We need to get together dude!

  • Lea Thrace

    I loled when I read the first part of your piece about your friend. I was at Tech around the same time he started there. Used to see him around (cause there werent but so many of us around Tech and even less in the biochem/biomed programs). Had a small school girl crush but never really talked to him. Small frickin world. I’ve seen some of his work/publications over the year and I remain impressed!

    • panamajackson

      It is a very small world. My boys are trill.

  • pls

    eeehhh. hbcu’s are great for support systems and networking, but pwi’s are a more realistic representation of what your office will look like after college. I remember the first day of class as a freshman, I was so uncomfortable because it was literally a sea of white folks. personally, i would rather tackle getting used to white faces everywhere in undergrad than my first job out of college.

    plus, in NC, even though our hbcu’s aren’t bad (A&T, Central, FSU, Elizabeth City…) a degree from a PWI holds more weight than one from an HBCU.

    • Meh…not everyone is at that level to deal fresh out of HS. Plus HBCUs are becoming popular for Black people who went to White high schools and just want to be around their kind.

      • pls

        to deal with a sea of white folks?

        • Yep! I didn’t really GAF, but that’s more because of my personality than because of anything institutional one way or another.

      • LeeLee

        This is why I went to an HBCU for undergrad. I was sheltered and the fly in the buttermilk in most of my high school and AP classes. I wanted my college classrooms to have a sea of beautiful black and brown faces. And they did :)

    • Damon Young

      “eeehhh. hbcu’s are great for support systems and networking, but pwi’s are a more realistic representation of what your office will look like after college.”

      depends on the office.

    • “Realistic representation” is always the weirdest thing to say in favor of PWIs like there aren’t a great many lucrative and fulfilling careers in Black communities. Literally the entire reason my aunt’s neighborhood even exists because of a large influx of Black professionals.

      • pls

        most of us will be working in predominantly white places of business. that’s not a swipe at black communities, it’s just probability.

        • panamajackson

          it is more likely, but that also supposes that folks really need to see that many white people to be prepared for it. hell, my guess is that you can prepare all you want, something is STILL going to happen to throw all that knowledge right out the window.

      • Depends on your field. For my line of work, I’ve had to beg, borrow and deal to get a Black social network. (Weirdly enough, they actually talked me out of a job to protect me, but that’s another story.) Still, if I waited for an office filled with Black folks, I might as well get some Cheetos and a video game system, because that would have been my life.

    • Andrea

      “hbcu’s are great for support systems and networking, but pwi’s are a
      more realistic representation of what your office will look like after
      college”

      This was the most amusing thing about my first job after Grad school. I was waiting on this “Office” my WHOLE LIFE. I get to it. My supervisor is black, my supervisor’s supervisor is Black. I got the job because the Director was Black. The lady who sat behind me was black. The lady who sat in front of me was Black. The lady with the office across from me was black. And they ALL went to HBCU’s.
      I put my stuff down. Looked around. And said Shiiiiiiiiiddddddddddddddd

      • bray_tusk91

        Ha, I worked in education my first year after college and then went to work for a black owned company. My mentor at that company was a Howard grad and I was surrounded by Morehouse, FAMU and Tuskgee grads at the actual work site.

        So much for the so called real world experience.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      It depends on your major. A&T engineers get lots of love.

      • tgtaggie

        Best school on earth ;-)

    • menajeanmaehightower

      When i was in high school, i was part of this group (the guidance counselor set it up for black students which i didn’t realize until later) where we visited some HBCUs in our state. I’m from SC. The schools looked second rate and the students looked like they were just chillin. My mother told me i would never attend one and after those trips, even though i knew i would attend a major university in my state, i knew i would never attend one. It’s all about the experience you had at that point in your life.

      There were two HBCU’s near my campus and the kids that went there just weren’t the same as the black kids that went to my PWI. It was almost like those schools were the only ones they could get into so they went.

      I say all that to say i didn’t have a Howard or Morehouse in my backyard. We had the low tiered HBCU’s around the corner and they were my experience.

      • Ms.Bridget

        Benedict, State, Claflin? I’m not mad at ya moms…

        • menajeanmaehightower

          Pretty much. I never understood the HBCU hype bc the ones in my state were crap and that was all i knew. That was my reality.

      • Yeah…SC has some crummy Black colleges compared to other nearby states. There isn’t a school that you could say is about something.

        • menajeanmaehightower

          They really are.

    • Samantha

      ” eeehhh. hbcu’s are great for support systems and networking, but pwi’s
      are a more realistic representation of what your office will look like
      after college.”

      I have never got this as a legitimate argument. I know it definitely depends on the person but I have attend PWI’s my entire life, elementary, middle, high school, under grad, and grad and quiet honestly I still don’t feel comfortable or happy in my office. Yeah it looks the same, but that that doesn’t help me be any more successful.

      • Epsilonicus

        For me private school definitely had me prepped for “the office” environment

    • panamajackson

      I’ve never understood why folks always go for that “real world” argument about HBCU’s vs PWIs. All of us live in the real world. Learning how to deal with white people isn’t exactly something nobody has ever done before. I went to an HBCU then went to a PWI for grad school and wasn’t in the slightest uncomfortable or felt ill prepared.

      and i also disagree with your last statment. A degree from UNC holds more weight than NC A&T in general. but A&T is very well known in engineering circles. each experience is obviously different. But i think that first job out of college shock is overrated. Plus, what if you go work at a Black place? It’s trumpeted often, but its a pretty not great reason.

      • Wild Cougar

        Attending a PWI, you get a double degree, the major you chose and a PhD in the white psyche.

        • panamajackson

          Yeah, but you assume that the 18 years of life in America we had prior didnt also do that. I went to a predominantly white high school…in Alabama.

          • Wild Cougar

            There are nuances in the university setting that are hard to explain. But I’m not gonna argue with you about it.

            • panamajackson

              lol. why thank you. i also went to a PWI and i didnt feel in anyway like i was at a loss. does it not count b/c i went to grad school and not undergrad?

              • Wild Cougar

                I wouldn’t call it being at a loss, and I’m not trying to say your experience doesn’t count, but the black PWI grads I’ve met seem to “get” white people on a deeper level than the HBCU grads. In my experience only it adds up to a competitive advantage.

                • bray_tusk91

                  Doesn’t work that way down here in Florida. AT HBCU’s you get an education as a black person on what and how things are going to be as a black professional.

                  Conversations that would never be had in a Lilly white class room with a white professor who doesn’t even want you there. I had my entire life before and after to deal with white folks.

                  My time at Tuskegee was a wonderful break from it all. Had no interest in fighting the same old battles and having the same old arguments in the class room as I had in all of high school.

                  Also some people strive on adversary but, some of us strive on support.

      • pls

        my original post somehow disappeared. this one is written in haste.

        long story short, if you live here you don’t go to A&T for an engineering degree, you go to NC State, period. An A at an HBCU (can only speak for NC) is not an A at a PWI.

        My brother attended A&T (after losing a scholarship to Howard) for undergrad and then UNC for grad school. He had a mentor at A&T that pretty much held his hand the whole way. At UNC, he struggled to realize that no one really had his back like they did at A&T. Both of us are STEM majors, so for us, all black everything just isn’t a realistic representation of who we’ll be surrounded by. What’s wrong with acknowledging that fact?

        Personally, I like that I learned the types of microaggressions that take place during professional interactions with whites in undergrad vs at my first job. but that’s just me.

  • My experience was all over the map. It was around the time I applied for college that I realized that I was #truetothegame with the whole science ish. I knew from watching my bro go to Hampton that I wanted no parts of the South for college, period. The Anti-New York bias turned me ALL the way off. On the flip side, I knew I wanted out of NYC since I hadn’t seen anything else. So I ended up…a whole hour away from home. LOL They came through with the better deal financial aid-wise, plus I knew after the initial campus tour that I could live there for 4+ years. It came down to RU and Dartmouth, and after Dartmouth rejected me, my decision was simple.

    In terms of experiences, well…as my brother put it, it’s like a HBCU, just surrounded by tens of thousands of White people. LOL If I wanted to just be with my people, there were enough of us around that I could do that with no problem. Plus the administration had enough Black people in enough places that I didn’t feel alone. On the flip side, I had a chance to branch out and do some different stuff. In fact, that’s what I liked about the place. I could go from some militant stuff to a step show to being White Boy Wasted to geeking out in 24 hours…because I freakin’ felt like it. There were no social boundaries holding me back, so I just started doing me…and kept going.

    I would have appreciated a nicer band and cheerleaders (a moment of silence for Rutgers’ Marching Band), but the experience I got out of it was worth it. I’m not sure if the place shaped me as much as it fit how I thought about the world. The fact is that a college is a place you choose to live for several years as well as a place you learn. Keep it on that level, figure out what you want to study, and the opportunities will take care of themselves.

    • S Emm

      This was my EXACT experience and I LOVED it! I had options. Plus it’s always great meeting that white kid who never met a black person in real life and putting them on to sh*t they never experienced.

      All in all, it was my experience and I loved it. And that’s all it’s about. What you wanted out of college. I got everything I wanted and more and wouldn’t trade it.

  • Val

    First let just say this: Spelhouse!

    Now that I’ve gotten that out. I used to promote and defend HBCUs like a madwoman. I don’t do it anymore because it always seemed as if I was swimming against the stream. Most Black folks seem absolutely content to attend a PWI and to not even give an HBCU any consideration. And, if asked about HBCUs in general will talk ish about them. We all know what those types of people say.

    Many Black folks have treated HBCUs like a good friend that’s there for you when you have no one else and then when things get better you ignore them and hang with your fair weather friends. When PWIs wanted nothing to do with us who was there to educate us and to welcome us with open arms?

    So, yeah, if you choose a PWI that’s of course your right to do so. But, at least show some pride in how we got to where we are today and don’t talk ish about HBCUs. Because, as I said, when they were siccing dogs on us to keep us off their campus’ HBCUs were a safe haven for us. Respect that.

    • Andrea

      You went to Spelman?

      • Val

        Yes.

        • Andrea

          I didn’t know. Me too!

    • One, I’ll always have much love for Hampton (since my brother went there) and Howard (due to deep ties between them and my alma mater that are underplayed for a variety of reasons). HBCUs have issues, but so does any institution. I would love for better science programs, because I think HBCUs have a role that few institutions in America could pull off. Still, there are Good Things, even if they could use some help fixing their issues.

    • panamajackson

      SPELHOUSE!

    • CamCamtheGreat

      “…and HBCU folks (well a segment of us that attended certain HBCUs) are
      mad protective AND patronizing towards PWI about their reasons for not
      attending one (its true, suck it up).”

  • I wish I would of joined band in high school. I would of stayed at Howard.

  • When I moved to Tallahassee and integrated myself with the Black community there, so many people asked me, “Why did you choose FSU instead of FAMU?”

    But it was never an either/or decision for me. It was a “how can I go to grad school with minimal debt?” type of decision. FSU offered TA position + stipend. But then again, no one really taught me how to evaluate a school or a department for its individual merits and weigh different schools. In hindsight, for my degree, an HBCU would have been better because of the depth of knowledge and friendliness to the subject (Af-Am Lit).

    But it worked out. I only applied to one grad school anyway. I was just happy they let me in at all.

    • I have a question for you, and for anyone who went to a PWI in a town with a HBCU there. How did you end up dealing with the community? Was it awkward? Were there opportunities to interact with the campuses? I know I would have felt awkward being the kid who skipped out on the party, so to speak. I’m just curious.

      • KKay

        Well I went to University of Houston and Texas Southern University is literally down the street. I didn’t have the “college experience” as most people describe on here cuz I was working almost full-time with a full course load. Prairie View was too far out for me to drive to daily.

        I didn’t go to TSU even though it was cheaper because at the time (approx. 18 yrs ago) their financial aid department sucked. Like literally sucked. I was going to be on financial aid and really didn’t want to have to deal with their bull. I actually had two high school classmates ulitmately drop out because they got so fed up trying to deal with them. I think eventually they fired all the employees in the office.

        As far as people who went to TSU and graduated they love’d it. My sister had a good experience when she went there for a bit. She said she genuinely felt the faculty really cared about the students and wanted everyone to succeed.

        I really haven’t gotten any crap about my decision. I generally don’t give a watery s h i t about strangers opinions of what I did almost 20 years, but that’s just me. Also I’m not really invested in this debate in the first place. People make their decision for a lot of reasons, I respect that and move on.

        • MsSula

          Besides U of H is kinda, sorta an HBCU in disguise. (Go Cougs!) :)

      • Well, the thing is, I’m Black. So if you look at me walking down the street, you can’t tell if I go to FSU or FAMU. And I spent most of my class time on campus. There is close-knit Black community at FSU. I’m not really an outgoing person so it wasn’t like I needed my name to be “known.” You get in where you fit in.

        I hung out with the Haitian cultural club which served FSU, FAMU and the local CC; and a Black poetry troupe that served the entire city. A bunch of my Black friends went to FAMU. Most of the time, it didn’t matter where you went to school because events were held on both campuses. Heck, I went to a FAMU crab boil once because I was invited. I performed at FAMU’s State of the Student address one year. To be Black in Tallahassee means you will likely know and love FAMU.

        The only people who ever asked why I went to FSU and not FAMU were the FAMUans acutely aware of the acrimonious history between the two schools. FSU students are not made aware of that. Because White privilege.

        • I have a friend who works for FSU whose family has deep ties to FAMU administration. The stories she’s told me about both sides of the tracks are what prompted me to ask the question. Also, the history and interaction of their football programs, for good or ill, is very interesting. You can make a non-unreasonable case that FSU was built on top of FAMU’s program.

        • bray_tusk91

          So many black FSU grad school graduates end up working and or teaching at FAMU.

          I am learning just how connected FAMU and FSU as far as black students can be.

  • MeridianBurst

    Congratulations to everyone! That’s pretty major what your boy is doing and it’s great to see that who he is and what he does is paving the way for other people, namely young folks, to have these amazing experiences and accomplishments. I think that’s what it’s all about. Not only do you have something worthwhile that represents you as a person and your name as a man, having that allows you to pass something worthwhile to the next generation and those who don’t have the opportunity. It’s amazing. Major kudos.

    “I learned that my confidence was okay and expected when I got there.”

    Valuable thing to know. Confidence is something that can be quite offputting and as a result, is often labeled as conceit or imagined self awareness. It’s beautiful to see in black men and especially when having it allows them to recognize and appreciate it in black women. We tend to have confidence in things that are kind of counterproductive to our state as people and as a community, but it’s almost indescribable how beautiful it is when we have confidence in our value, our capabilities, and our possibilities.

    “So what shaped your experience? What made it special? Any regrets? Did the school you went to shape who you are today?”

    I went to a PWI. While it was a great school and was an all around enjoyable experience for me, it just made me feel really empty because I wasn’t around my own people through the most life changing experiences of my youth. Growing up in the south was one thing, but I was a child. I developed around whites, I went to college around whites, and the lifestyle we had was great for any person to have. College was supposed to be fun for me. It was supposed to be that moment I bonded with my people — at least that’s what I wanted for myself. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to an HBCU just because it would’ve been so different for me. I was honestly a bit intimidated because I knew I wouldn’t fit in. A PWI was more comfortable for me. I can’t say I regret my decision but I wanted something different for myself. I just had more support in going a route that was most in tune with my upbringing. I regret not pledging to a sorority but…I wanted to have black sisters. I honestly get kind of choked up about it. There were black people on my campus but you really had to make it a full time job to find them and it was just…black love meant something to me. Having it and seeing it and wishing to feel it meant something to me. I don’t regret my decision but it had a toll on me. HBCU vs. PWI isn’t about which experience is better, in my opinion. It’s about weighing the pros and cons of each.

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