Nine colleges, universities launch historic alliance ~ The Interlink Alliance

Friday, October 31, 2008

Nine colleges and universities officially announce a new educational partnership -- The Interlink Alliance. The unique alliance will address some of the most pressing issues facing these and other higher education institutions.


Members of the alliance have pledged to work cooperatively in three key areas: faculty development, student leadership and an African-American male initiative that engages and motivates prospective college students as early as middle school.


"There is nothing more important to all our institutions than figuring out how to reach, retain, educate, graduate and facilitate the success of students -- especially those who continue to be underrepresented despite other efforts. And we want to make sure that all our students have everything they need to be competitive at the highest levels," Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis said. "To do that, we must give our faculty the tools to be exceptional. In addition, our institutions must be better at building our infrastructures and conducting business."


The alliance includes small, medium and large institutions, all with different characters. Chancellor Charlie Nelms of North Carolina Central University thinks that's one of its greatest strengths.


"A lot of times, institutions partner with others most like them. This is the only partnership that we've been involved in with this kind of diversity. There are opportunities to connect in ways that would not otherwise be possible," he said.


“SC State University is very pleased to be a part of the Interlink Alliance. This alliance provides an opportunity to engage with HBCUs and other universities to positively impact faculty and student development. This partnership will also assist with recruitment and retention challenges that are faced by many institutions of higher learning, participating in serving students who need access to higher education,” said George E. Cooper, President of SC State University.


The Interlink Alliance includes Ohio University in Athens, Ohio; Spelman College in Atlanta; Hampton University in Hampton, Va.; Wilberforce University and Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio; Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C.; North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C.; South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C.; and Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va.


Although many consortia pair traditionally white schools and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), they have tended to focus on specific research areas or projects. Or they have been recruitment conduits, primarily funneling undergraduates from HBCUs into post-baccalaureate programs at traditionally white institutions. The Interlink Alliance core group put special emphasis on a peer structure that benefits all participating institutions and offers collaboration opportunities for multiple institutions at once.


"This agreement represents something new in higher education," McDavis said. "Every institution in this alliance brings talent, successes and research expertise to bear on these challenges. We're only successful if every member benefits."


The real beneficiaries of the alliance, which Wilberforce University President Patricia Hardaway calls "a pivotal opportunity," will be students and faculty.


"The distinctive element of this commitment is that it will be ingrained in all levels of the university. It will give opportunities to faculty to learn and grow and also give them the opportunity to help others. It will bring synergy around research," Hardaway said. "... And students will be able to communicate with students at other institutions. ...They will be able to go to other universities where they'll have different research and classroom experiences."


McDavis said that although alliance members would like the group to remain a manageable size in order to conduct projects nimbly, they hope other HBCUs and traditionally white institutions will join in once the alliance is fully up and running.


Among outcomes members have discussed so far are increasing the number of students earning graduate degrees, increasing campus diversity at all institutions, and sponsoring faculty and student exchanges that foster deeper understanding of cultural perspectives on educational policies, laws and resources.


Consortium initiatives include, but are not limited to:
• Initiative for African-American males — Establishes partnerships with K-12 schools, focusing on projects to support access and opportunity for African-American males to pursue a college education.


• Faculty development — Integral to the consortium is the opportunity for faculty training, advancement and the pursuit of doctoral degrees.


• Student leadership development — This initiative will pursue a multipronged approach to preparing students for high-level careers in educational institutions, corporations and governments in the global economy.


• Research collaboration — This alliance will bring researchers together from multiple fields, with special emphasis on cancer and biomedical research.


• Infrastructure — Member institutions will collaborate on infrastructure improvement through sharing best practices of successful programs, services and partnerships.


For additional information, contact Tyrone M. Carr, Ohio University Interlink Alliance director, at 740-593-1641 or carrt@ohio.edu, or Erica S. Prioleau, SC State Director of University Relations and Marketing at (803) 516-4791 or esprioleau@scsu.edu.