HL 045: Dr. Charlie Nelms on How HBCU Leaders Manage Public Adversity

Last Updated on January 14, 2023

Dr. Charlie Nelms returns ot the HBCU Lifestyle Podcast

It is not uncommon for the challenges of HBCUs to be prominently featured in the local, regional and national news. The general public and even HBCU alumni, students and leaders tend to assume the worst when these institutions' stories hit news outlets. After news of HBCUs' accreditation status being threatened were reported several months ago, we wondered about leaders' reactions. We invited higher education leadership expert Dr. Charlie Nelms back to the HBCU Lifestyle Podcast to offer his thoughts.

Dr. Nelms shares his thoughts on several levels. The former chancellor of North Carolina Central University discusses how HBCU leaders can successfully navigate social media, internal communication, the tough decisions they face, and the benefits of engaged HBCU alumni during adversity. Dr. Nelms shared some of these thoughts in his HBCU Lifestyle blog “7 Steps HBCU Alumni Must Take in 2017 to Stop the Bleeding”.

About Charlie Nelms, Ed.D.

Widely respected for his transformational leadership, Dr. Nelms is a motivational speaker and a higher education consultant. The University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff alumnus has more than 40 years' experience and leadership in: student access, retention, and graduation; institutional effectiveness; and strategic planning. Dr. Nelms serves as a board member of leading educational associations and foundations across the U.S., he is a senior scholar at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and provides leadership in assisting minority-serving institutions. Dr. Nelms has also been a consultant for a broad range of higher education organizations.

Dr. Nelms is the recipient of numerous awards for his accomplishments in higher education, including two honorary doctorates and fellowships from the American Council on Education and the Ford Foundation. In 2012, President Obama honored Dr. Nelms with the MLK Drum Major for Service Award for helping to address the most pressing needs in our communities and our nation. Dr. Nelms is a founding member of the Millennium Leadership Initiative and Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. During his tenure as chancellor of North Carolina Central, U.S. News & World Report ranked NCCU as one of the best public HBCUs in the nation for three consecutive years. Dr. Nelms is the founder and director of the Destination Graduation Initiative, which aims to increase retention and graduation rates at HBCUs. In 2011, Dr. Nelms published, A Call to Action, a policy directive intended to spur a national dialogue concerning the revitalization of HBCUs as an important sector of American higher education.

Upon retiring as the tenth chancellor of NCCU in August 2012, Dr. Nelms established the Destination Graduation Initiative (DGI) to assist Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) with increasing retention and graduation rates. The central dimension of DGI entailed utilizing the expertise of senior higher education officials, policy experts, and faculty to identify impediments to student academic success and to design strategies for improvement. DGI associates served as coaches to ensure implementation of recommended strategies. In 2013, Dr. Nelms and a colleague received a grant, Leading to Completion, to design protocols, processes, and procedures to assist MSIs with increasing retention and graduation rates.

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