Torrence Banks, Managing Editor
During a time where calls for social justice reform are at a high, there is a great need for black leaders to push society forward. Morehouse College has a strong reputation in United States higher education for producing black leaders. This reputation is one reason why Dr. Kendrick Brown is looking forward to starting his job as the Provost of Morehouse College in January 2021.
“What makes me want to be the Provost is really to continue to contribute to the rich history and the legacy of the institution,” Brown said. “Having educated black men who can lead so many different aspects of society is totally what we need right now. So, I feel committed to that mission and the education that is being provided.”
Morehouse College President David Thomas said in a statement to students, “Dr. Brown shares our commitment to the Morehouse mission to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service. It is, in fact, what attracted him to the college.”
Brown first became aware that of the Provost position after one of his colleagues at another institution nominated him. His name was sent to the search consultant who later told him that Morehouse’s Provost position was available. After having additional conversations with Thomas and the Associate Vice President for Leadership Initiatives and Lead Director of the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership, Jann Adams, Brown determined that this job would be a good fit.
“I had a lot of conversations with the search consultant and as I talked with him, it became clear that what Morehouse was looking for fit well with a lot of the skills and perspectives I had developed over the years,” Brown said. “So, I continued to have further conversations with the search chair, Dr. Jann Adams, and also with President Thomas and I felt we were on the same page in terms of what Morehouse was looking for.”
Brown’s past experiences have prepared him to become the Provost of the college. He has served in higher education for 22 years, rotating from being a professor and an academic dean. Previously, Brown has served as a dean at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California, and served as a senior administrator at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
“Dr. Brown, I think is extraordinarily prepared,” Adams said. “He has experience as a dean, an Interim provost and other academic positions. At the University of Redlands, where he currently is, he has faced challenges around finances that I think are similar to the challenges that we have faced here.
“He also understands the mission and values of Morehouse. And so, he’s very familiar with what it is we do at Morehouse, how deeply we value our mission, how much we care about our students, how essential are students are to what we do.”
Outside of the positions that he has held, as a graduate student, Brown had the opportunity to work at the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan. This program led to him developing a research interest and an appreciation for what impacts people in black communities.
“The research formed a foundation for of course my own experiences and led me to think about how our black communities, our communities of color, are impacted by so many different forces in society,” Brown said.
The search for the next Morehouse Provost began in January and the recommendation on the next Provost was made to Thomas by August. Due to the late start on the search and the pandemic, the decision to hire a Provost was made later. Typically, Provost searches start in September or October.
“We had a search committee made up of 12 faculty and staff and two students, Adams said.
“We were getting started in January, February. So, what we didn’t want to happen was to have great candidates to already be committed somewhere else before we had a chance to tell them about Morehouse. When the pandemic hit, basically what you have people who are already at dean and Provost positions on their college and university campuses, dealing with these crises on campus, and your trying to recruit them to leave in the midst of that.”
One of the challenges that Brown will face as Provost is how the college will offer online education. For years, Morehouse professors have been good with crafting relationships with students and creating engaging environments where they can learn. Brown questions how this education experience can be created virtually.
“I think right now, the challenge facing a lot of higher education and certainly Morehouse is how do you offer online education because we’re all forced to do this due to the circumstances,” Brown said. “But, more than that, how do you learn from the lessons that while acquiring now and then pivot that to what it is that all of us want to do, which is be in person and be able to relate and connect and really form relationships that will be rewarding at multiple levels.”
In addition to remaining faithful to educating black men, another challenge that Brown will face is how Morehouse can extend their reach. Offering classes online will allow more students to receive a Morehouse education.
“But also, to think about ways in which Morehouse might be able to extend its reach beyond the borders or boundaries of Morehouse and offer perhaps some online courses, that would have a Morehouse quality for folks who are not able to come to Atlanta and to be immersed in the campus the way that many students are,” Brown said.
One thing that Brown felt like could get more attention is Morehouse’s academic structure. Before making any decisions, he wants to make sure that he listens to a variety of perspectives from students, faculty, staff, trustees, alums and others in the community.
“I’m really careful about coming in thinking ‘This needs to change’ without having an opportunity to talk with people, to get to know Morehouse and its culture and its history,” Brown said. “I think it would be a mistake to come in the door thinking ‘This is something that must change.’
“One thing I definitely picked up on in my interviews and conversations I had is that it’s a complex thing. I want to be careful with that, I want to be respectful of the history that gave rise to it. But, I also want to work with folks to see what makes sense going forward. That’s going to generally be my approach with most issues.”
Brown had an opportunity to talk to current Provost Michael Hodge during his interview. During that interview, Hodge advised him to listen to the entire Morehouse community. He also advised Brown to respect Morehouse College’s traditions.
“One of the things he said was that, and I agree with him, that I should listen to all the parts of the Morehouse community, students, faculty, trustees, alums, parents, fellow administrators,” Brown said. “Listen to all these different perspectives and I agree with him. I think there’s some wisdom there that if I don’t hear it, then I won’t have an opportunity to hopefully make decisions that are in the best interest of the college.
“As someone who’s coming in from the outside, I of course want to respect the traditions that Morehouse has. I want to be respectful. I want to ensure that these traditions continue and look at ways of which Morehouse might be able to grow into the future that will be on the foundation that we already have.”
One thing that Brown wanted students to know is that all decisions that he will make as Provost will be in the best interest of the students. In addition, as a Cleveland, Ohio, native, Brown wants students to know that he is a huge Cleveland Browns fan. Despite the teasing that he has taken for being a fan of the team, he will remain a Browns fan until the team wins a Superbowl.
“I want them to know the fun side, the Cleveland Browns, but I also want them to know that I’m very much focused on that bottom line of being student-centered and seeing what we can do that will always enhance our Morehouse education,” Brown said.