By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU
Haley Heard, a Pleasant Grove High School grad who attends Alabama State University, has been named to the ninth cohort of HBCU Scholars by The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Heard,a 2019 Pleasant Grove High grad, who graduated ASU in May and now is in graduate school at the university in the Master of Accountancy, Data Analytics program, said winning the award feels like a dream.
“I just feel amazing and humbled, as well as dream-like. I never felt that I would win such an important honor, and I must thank the ASU office of Career Services for all they did to make this happen for me,” said Heard, an intern with KPMG. “I want to thank ASU for both this and the many other important opportunities that it has made available to me since I enrolled here. So, I give ASU the credit and look forward to traveling to the Washington, D.C. area in September and hopefully seeing President Biden.”
In addition to Heard, Laquann Wilson also received the national honor, said Dr. Malinda W. Swoope, ASU’s vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
HBCU Scholars will be invited to the 2023 HBCU Week National Annual Conference, held September 24-28, in the Washington, D.C. metro-area at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virginia and participate in conference sessions designed to engage a spirit of innovation, leadership, and personal and professional development.
First Love Yourself
Heard is an active member of both the community and the Alabama State University campus, consistently demonstrating leadership qualities. She is involved in several mentoring programs, including the ASU First Love Yourself mentoring program and the Build-A-Hornet mentoring program. Additionally, she is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. where she served as president in 2022. She was also inducted into the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success, further exemplifying her commitment to academic and professional excellence.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled and proud of our students from Alabama State University being recognized as 2023 HBCU Scholars,” Swoope said. “This achievement is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and exceptional abilities. I am a firm believer in the potential of our students, and seeing them receive such prestigious recognition confirms that they are on the path to greatness.”
Being recognized as an HBCU scholar is a significant achievement that shows positivity concerning the students’ academic excellence and their commitment to greatness, Swoope said.
Wilson, a senior in political science, said he feels extremely honored to have been selected.
“I feel that this award will greatly help me in my chosen field of government, and eventually in becoming an attorney,” said the native of Augusta, Ga.
He said that he is especially looking forward to the tremendous networking opportunities that being with his fellow scholars will give him.
Winning the award is life changing for both students, said Swoope.
“Being recognized as HBCU Scholars at Alabama State University creates a powerful learning environment that can have a transformative effect on students, motivating them to excel in a variety of ways,” Swoope said. “A learning environment like this empowers students, instills confidence, and fosters a love of learning that goes beyond the classroom. The creation of a supportive and engaging environment encourages students to reach their potential and excel both academically and personally.”
Officials at the university said it was an honor to have Heard and Wilson represent the institution as HBCU scholars.
“It demonstrates [they] have not only met but exceeded rigorous academic requirements, and it showcases their intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and their willingness to go above and beyond in their pursuit of knowledge,” Swoope said, “Such achievements reflect positively on ASU as a whole, demonstrating that it attracts and cultivates some of the brightest minds in the nation.”
As for what it does for the school, Swoope said, “Having HBCU scholars among our students enhances the reputation of Alabama State University as a top-tier institution for higher education. It attracts attention from prospective students, employers, and collaborators, showcasing our commitment to producing graduates who are academically proficient, socially aware, and poised for meaningful contributions to society.”
Culture Of Excellence
ASU’s two students join 102 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from 29 different states who have received the award for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement and more.
According to White House officials, the 2023 HBCU scholars are members of the largest cohort since the inception of the program in 2014 and represent a record number of institutions, with the HBCU participation rate now above 70 percent.
“Our 2023 HBCU Scholars are talented students who embody the culture of excellence and inclusion championed by our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education. “On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and everyone across the Biden-Harris Administration, I congratulate each of our 2023 HBCU scholars on this prestigious recognition and thank them for their commitment to serving their communities.
“I’m thrilled to see the HBCU Scholars program continue to expand its reach and provide such exciting professional development, networking, and educational opportunities to some of our nation’s brightest and most promising young leaders.”
The current cohort of scholars are enrolled at 70 of the nation’s HBCUs, including ASU. They were selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants.
HBCU Scholars serve as ambassadors for the White House Initiative on HBCUs, the U.S. Department of Education, and their respective HBCUs over the course of the next year.
Student-scholars are encouraged to participate in community engagement projects, work to strengthen democracy, help grow the national economy and more. Among the many important aspects of the HBCU Scholars Program is a partnership with NASA to foster innovation and opportunity for the cohorts. The scholars will have the opportunity to present their IP ideas in-person at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, during the National HBCU Week Conference in September.
Also, HBCU Scholars will have opportunities to engage with one another, initiative staff and partners, all to showcase their individual and collective talent.