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Diversity & Inclusion, Other

Since 1867 – The Howard Project

"Howard Project" participants (left to right) Kevin Peterman, Taylor Davis, Ariel Alford and Leighton Watson in the Howard University library. (Photo Credits: Emily Jan/NPR)

“Howard Project” participants (left to right) Kevin Peterman, Taylor Davis, Ariel Alford and Leighton Watson in the Howard University library. (Photo Credits: Emily Jan/NPR)

It was one of those Sunday mornings. While nothing seemed out of the ordinary, I just could not kick it into second gear to get dressed in time for the 7:45 a.m. service. After backing out of the driveway and beginning the drive to church, I turned on the radio. It’s usually tuned to the local National Public Radio (NPR) station and the latest news for the 8 a.m. hour was being reported.

As I veered onto the freeway, the following introduction was provided for the next segment of the April 19, 2015 program:

The class of 2015 is nearing graduation. For students at Howard University in Washington, DC, that day is May 9th.

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday has been following four of those seniors all semester: Taylor Davis, Ariel Alford, Kevin Peterman, and Leighton Watson. This week, the four joined NPR’s Rachel Martin in our D.C. studios to talk about the songs that have formed the soundtrack to their college years.

I’m still driving and thinking, this is the first that this alum is hearing of The Howard Project. However, it did not take me long to remember how I was feeling that last month of school prior to receiving each of my degrees from Howard and Arizona State Universities – severely sleep deprived and staying awake on coffee and my natural adrenalin.

Curious to find out a little more about The Howard Project, I visited the website and also sent an inquiry to NPR’s ombudsperson. The first in a series of stories was posted on February 1, 2015, and aired on February 21, 2015. Weekend Edition Sunday wanted to tap into the challenges facing graduating seniors of the Class of 2015, as well as their preoccupations. They decided to follow four students — two men and two women — from Howard University in Washington, D.C., just a couple miles from NPR headquarters.

Each student was asked to keep an audio diary over several months and also, to agree to provide some insights into the open window of questions they’re grappling with as they think about their future. Ariel Alford is an aspiring high school history teacher, Leighton Watson an aspiring lawyer, Taylor Davis an aspiring nurse, and Kevin L. Peterman an aspiring minister.

During Part 2 of this series (posted on February 22, 2015), when asked “How do you feel about graduating? And how do you see yourself fitting into your respective career path?”, Ariel Alford responded:  I feel very excited to graduate! I feel excited over the smallest things…like I am excited to set up my classroom. And I am excited to meet my future students…and actually last night I prayed for my future students.

While I have many fond memories of my years at Howard University, what is most memorable are the friends that I met who are still my friends today! I have also met their parents and siblings when we were still in college and/or after graduation, and they are an extension of my family. I can honestly call these individuals friends, and I have a connection with them that I don’t have with most other persons.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ariel, Leighton, Taylor, and Kevin will be life-long friends. And if Ariel can pray for her future students that she has not yet met, she is definitely someone that I must have in my circle of influence.

Since venturing into the world of work in the mid-1980s, I have been asked several times by different persons if I had it to do all over again, would I have chosen Howard University for my undergraduate education? My response each time has been – YES without any hesitation.

We are about a week away from the beginning of the spring graduation season – an annual ritual at most high schools, colleges and universities, community colleges, and other special schools in the U.S. To the four students that have shared their journey with all of us via NPR Weekend Edition Sunday, with Bison pride I extend a heart-felt congratulations to each of you!

About Howard: Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. To date, Howard has awarded more than 120,000 degrees in the arts, the sciences, and the humanities. The historic main campus sits on a hilltop in Northwest Washington blocks from the storied U Street and Howard Theatre. We are two miles from the U.S. Capitol where many students intern, and scores of alumni shape national and foreign policy.

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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