UNCF Institute for Capacity Building Expands Network Committed to Strengthening HBCUs

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Monique LeNoir UNCF Communications 202.810.0231 monique.lenoir@uncf.org

UNCF expands transformation partnerships to 42 with newly funded cohort of HBCUs, propelling higher enrollment and student success


With a new round of investments, UNCF today announced its newest cohort of high-potential Black colleges and universities committed to institutional transformation.

The new cohort includes:

  • Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach, FL)
  • Edward Waters University (Jacksonville, FL)
  • Florida Memorial University (Miami Gardens, FL)
  • Jarvis Christian University (Hawkins, TX)
  • Lane College (Jackson, TN)
  • Miles College (Fairfield, AL)
  • Oakwood University (Huntsville, AL)
  • Philander Smith University (Little Rock, AR)
  • Shaw University (Raleigh, NC)
  • Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, AL)
  • Tougaloo College (Tougaloo, MS)
  • Voorhees University (Denmark, SC)

UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building (ICB)—established in 2006 by Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF—has received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ascendium Education Group and, most recently, Blue Meridian Partners to implement transformation on the campuses of Black colleges and universities. Over the last three years, ICB has raised over $100 million to support the institutions in its network.

“UNCF’s mission and calling are to continually improve Black higher education while building on the unparalleled success HBCUs have had on Black progress and excellence,” said Dr. Lomax. “Forward-looking investors see a significant lever in our collective transformation work at a time when the nation is re-evaluating what constitutes a quality college education.”

Since 2016, 42 Black colleges and universities have joined ICB’s transformation network to advance institutional priorities, representing a mix of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs). Thanks to recent investments, ICB plans to expand its transformation network to more than 50 institutions in 2023 and aspires to partner with all 102 HBCUs and 64 PBIs in the United States.

Ed Smith-Lewis, UNCF vice president of strategic partnerships and institutional programs, who leads ICB, said now is the right time to invest in HBCUs.

While college enrollment declined nationwide, recent reports show HBCUs saw increases,” Mr. Smith-Lewis said. “We’ve been able to help HBCUs stay, not only relevant through the pandemic, but emerge even stronger through institutional innovation and collaboration.”

The impact of transformation efforts continues to build momentum with partners reporting significant gains in student enrollment, success and workforce outcomes. A report from UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute on ICB’s first cohort of transformation partnerships will be released early next year.

Dr. Carmen Walters, president of Tougaloo College, said the collaboration with the Institute for Capacity Building has been catalytic. “The transformation partnership with ICB has changed the DNA of how presidents think about improvement,” said Walters. “It’s made us wiser and more strategic. Indeed, when we go together, we go further for our students and communities.”

Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, president and CEO of Voorhees University, also said that ICB’s support is critical to their plans. “We are living in a time of great transition in higher education generally, and Black higher education especially,” Hopkins said. “With ICB assistance and support from strategic philanthropists, we’re prepared to seize the possibilities we see for exponentially greater impact.”

ICB’s mission is to partner with Black colleges and universities to propel student success, community advancement and the fight for racial-justice equity. ICB focuses on six strategies—transformation support, executive leadership, financial sustainability, digital solutions, knowledge management and strategy development—that provide direct support to its institutional partners while promoting the adoption of best practices throughout higher education. ICB is also leading the development of HBCUv, a new online learning platform designed by and for HBCUs.

According to a recent survey, nearly three-fourths of college presidents say that, to thrive, they must rethink their business models to respond to increasing diversity in higher education. They seek partners, like UNCF, to guide that change.

Rev. Dr. Darryl Ann Lai-Fang, ICB director of transformation support, said the collective efforts continue to demonstrate the outsized impact of HBCUs. “Our schools have always done a lot more with a lot less. They graduate more Black students who go on to lift entire communities,” said Dr. Lai-Fang. “Now, our network of Black colleges and universities is demonstrating just how much it can teach the rest of higher education.”

ICB recently launched a new website and social media platform to better serve as a champion of Black higher education and to further propel transformation partnerships. To learn more about ICB, visit uncficb.org and follow @uncficb on Twitter and Instagram, connect with UNCF ICB on LinkedIn or join ICB and its transformation network in July 2023 at UNITE, the most influential gathering of leaders committed to Black colleges and universities and the promise of Black higher education.





UNCF’s ICB partners with Black higher education institutions to support their transformation and continual innovation—all to propel student success, community advancement and the fight for educational equity and racial justice. Learn more at uncficb.org.  


About UNCF

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. While totaling only 3% of all colleges and universities, UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 13% of bachelor’s degrees, 5% of master’s degrees, 10% of doctoral degrees and 24% of all STEM degrees earned by Black students in higher education. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.