Black History Month Archives - Community | Union Institute & University

A Ph.D. student responds to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing portable hand-washing stations to the homeless in Atlanta

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Terence Lester saw a need. He anticipated that the coronavirus could rage among the homeless population because of the lack of handwashing facilities.

Lecrae and Terence deliver portable hand washing station.

Lecrae and Terence deliver portable hand washing station.

His idea was to put portable handwashing stations throughout Atlanta, but he only had the resources for one. That’s when Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae called and asked how he could help. Together they have put 15 sinks throughout the Atlanta area where the homeless are concentrated.

Lester, working towards his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Public Policy & Social Change, is also a minister and draws a parallel between washing hands and Jesus’s actions of washing feet. “We have a responsibility to help others with dignity and humility. Jesus said, ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’”

Homeless man uses new portable hand washing station

Homeless man uses new portable hand washing station

Lester and his wife Cecilia founded Love Beyond Walls in Atlanta in 2013 to advocate for the invisible and voiceless. “Our vision is to provide dignity to the homeless and poor by providing a voice, visibility, shelter, community, and grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency.”

The nonprofit provides many services.

The Lester Family

The Lester Family

“We provide mobile makeovers to the underserved, temporary shelter, groceries for 300 to 500 families a month, clothing for the community and students, free laundry services, free water bins for those who don’t have running water, awareness campaigns to educate the community, a leadership program, and we work with other organizations in other countries to solve problems.”

His advocacy for the poor was highlighted in the Coca-Cola “History Shakers” Black History Month campaign.

He also launched the “Dignity Museum,” this past January. The museum is housed in a shipping container with the flexibility to be a traveling exhibit. The interactive experience immerses the visitor in the feeling of being trapped in poverty. Lester hopes the museum dispels stereotypes of homelessness and galvanizes people to action. One visitor explained that she lives paycheck to paycheck and could see how homelessness could happen to the average person.

Lester, a scholar practitioner, chose Union to pursue his doctorate on a recommendation. “I was teaching a class on the evil of poverty for Morehouse professor Dr. Vicki Crawford. I had chosen another university for my Ph.D. when Dr. Crawford encouraged me to check out Union,” said Lester. “I was so impressed with Union and its social justice mission and the opportunity to supplement the Public Policy & Social Change major with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies Specialization.”

Also important was the opportunity to take courses online.

“Union offers distance learning which greatly appealed to me because of my responsibilities and my need to work fulltime. That, coupled with two residencies and similar-minded students, made Union the perfect choice for me.”

He is fulfilling a lifetime dream by pursuing his Ph.D.

“Education saved my life. I was a high school dropout. I know education changes lives because it changed mine.”

Lester is also an activist, speaker, and author of four books. His most recent is “I See You.”

But he describes himself as a husband and father first.

“I credit my wife Cecilia and our two children, Zion Joy and Terence II, for their continuing support. Together we continually raise awareness and mobilize an army of people who dare to get involved in breaking down barriers and dreaming up new solutions.”

Let us know what you are doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic by emailing Teresa Wilkins at Teresa.Wilkins@myunion.edu.

Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight – Telling the African narrative in her own way

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Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright, Ph.D. 1996, is an educator, fundraiser, and academic leader dedicated to telling the culturally rich African narrative. But, Dr. Anim-Wright works to ensure that narrative reflects the African voice instead of relying on others to tell the story. The Ghana native credits her parents for a strong work ethic. Her father was the first director of the only news agency in Ghana, from where she says she first understood her love of writing.

Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright

Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright, Ph.D

Dr. Amin-Wright earned her undergraduate degree at Central State University in Ohio and served as Deputy Director of the Office of Sponsored Research, Contracts, and Grants and associate director of the Central State University Office of Development and International Programs, where she earned several major government grants, including a $550,000 USAID University Development Linkages Project grant that aligned CSU and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. She went on to serve in a variety of advancement positions at Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, CT., including vice president for Institutional Advancement, and director of the Western Connecticut State University Foundation, Inc. She earned her Ph.D. with a concentration in communication and development from Union in 1996.

In 2010, she returned home to Ghana to give back to her country. She served as director of Corporate Affairs and Institutional Advancement at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, and in 2015, she was named president of the African University College of Communications (AUCC), the first female to hold that position. In an interview with the Harvard Africa Policy Journal, Dr. Anim-Wright describes the role that higher education plays in leading to a better way of life. She also discusses the need for institutional advancement to grow across the continent to offer more scholarships to needy students.

She is currently acting dean of the Centre for International Education and Collaboration at the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Ghana, responsible for facilitating opportunities for international experience and exchange through strategic partnerships and connections. She is also a senior lecturer in the UPSA Communications Department. She serves on the Board of Directors of MG Radio Ltd and is a member of the Ghana Institute of Languages Board.

Recently, she visited her alma mater to meet with UI&U President Karen Schuster Webb. Their discussion centered on building a co-national model for Ph.D. programs between the two universities that is online and hybrid and leverages both institutions resources. Plans are underway now to build this program in the near future.

In the Q & A below, she shares her insights on leadership.

Q. How do you define leadership?
A. I define leadership as the ability to serve others. I believe in an all-hands-on-deck philosophy. My belief is that to lead, one has to serve, and have empathy to understand the journey of those you lead.

Q. Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.
A. Watching my students excel. I love taking students under my wing and working directly with them to build their self-esteem, and help on their journey toward their purpose. Watching them then fly on their own and achieve their goals – that’s a great feeling.

Q. What leader do you admire most and why?
A. The leader I admire most is Maya Angelou. She embodied her words. Her life and achievements are an inspiration to me and inspire me to be better.

Q. What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?
A. My favorite inspiring quote is, “Never let go of your dreams.” Once I had a student who lacked self-confidence and was very shy. I told her she had great potential and to never let go of her dreams and took her under my wing. Before long she just blossomed. Just before graduation, she brought me a wooden plaque with those words carved in the wood and presented it to me. I have it to this day. And she and I have remained in touch.

Q. When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?
A. I didn’t realize I was a leader until I started to get promoted in my professional life. Prior to that, I was just being me, focusing on work and giving it my all. When the promotions kept coming, that’s when I realized that people around me saw me as a leader and I eventually began to feel and see myself as one.

Union’s Ph.D. program incorporates interdisciplinary study to expand and deepen knowledge and expertise. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!

February is Black History Month

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A message from the President’s Desk:

It is February, a month caught between the cold dark days of winter and our hope for an early spring. It is also when we celebrate our loved ones on Valentine’s Day. And, certainly for those of us at Union and beyond, February is another chance to reflect upon and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the life of America.

I was in Washington, D.C. earlier this month and saw the emerging National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open on the national mall as the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution in May 2016.

As a historian, I am gratified that the Smithsonian and its many supporters are finally coming together to recognize the contributions to our history and culture by generations of African Americans who have remained largely invisible in our history books. The museum creates an opportunity to see how important African American history is for each of us by creating a place for recognition, collection, research, teaching, learning, and enjoyment of African American history and culture. Not too far from the new museum is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. In my mind, the new museum and its contents will represent the rich fabric of African-American lives over the centuries. The statue represents the power of the mind, body, and soul of a man who inspired all of us to seek the best of our humanity in serving others. Together, the two structures anchor America’s capital with a fitting tribute to the countless contributions of African Americans to America’s greatness.

Since its inception 50 years ago, Union has always been true to its commitment to diversity and providing quality education to people looking for a relevant and rigorous education. A signature offering in our Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program – and soon to be a certificate program – Union’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. specialization brings together scholars, practitioners, faculty, and students – all dedicated to furthering the legacy of Dr. King. Each time I have an opportunity to interact with our MLK scholars, I come away enriched by their fierce compassion for Dr. King’s teachings as well as their drive to make a difference and transform lives and communities as they enhance their education and their careers. Each time I have an opportunity to visit with our faculty, I am impressed with their dedication to Union’s mission and their commitment to mentor and support our students in accomplishing their individual dreams.

America has struggled for many years over issues of race. Last summer, we faced new challenges that need new, creative, and lasting solutions. We hope that Union’s programs and its dedication to each individual will serve as an example of how we can all work together to bridge gaps and gain understanding. Dr. King stated, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” I urge you to take Dr. King’s words to heart during Black History Month and every month. Think intensively and think critically about his words, your education, and your character. Think about this and the many contributions African-Americans make to our lives every day. Also take a moment to view brief spotlights on just a few of Union’s many notable alumni who, through Union have been engaged, enlightened, and empowered toward a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

Roger H. Sublett, Ph.D.

Union Institute & University

Some of our most notable alumni and their outstanding accomplishments are featured below; just click on a name to learn more.

Union Notable Alumni