Charlie Nelms writes a bi-monthly column for HBCU Lifestyle.

Failure Is Not an Option: Setting HBCU Presidents Up For Success

August 2, 2017
Failure is Not An Option: Setting HBCU Presidents Up For SuccessExtensive newspaper and television coverage, along with social media chatter about recent leadership changes at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUs, led me to reach out to a dozen or so of my former administrative colleagues to get their sense of what can be done to increase the probability of presidential success, irrespective of the length of a president’s tenure.

Musings of a Retired HBCU Chancellor

May 29, 2017
The-Musings-of-a-Retired-HBCU-ChancellorIt’s hard to believe that it has been five years since I announced my retirement from full-time university administration. That’s right, five years! Two days following my “retirement” I immersed myself in a wide range of activities related to improving student retention and graduation, enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education and in strengthening governance and institutional effectiveness. I have had the privilege of serving as a full-time advocate for the HBCU sector, while also serving as a consultant to over 50 universities, foundations and higher education associations, among other entities. I haven’t had a slow day yet, and the pace doesn’t show signs of abating anytime soon.

7 Steps HBCU Alumni Must Take in 2017 to Stop the Bleeding

January 18, 2017
7-Steps-HBCU-Alumni-Must-Take-in-2017-to-Stop-the-BleedingFellow HBCU Alums — While I’m tempted to wish you a Happy New Year, I must admit that the uncertainty of the policy positions proffered by the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and the potential Congressional response, weigh heavily on me the closer we get to Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017. I hope they concern you and other American’s of goodwill too. But I have lived long enough to know that concern alone is inadequate.

HBCU Class of 2020: Top 10 Advice for College Success

August 19, 2016

HBCU Class of 2020: Top 10 Advice for College SuccessThere is an old adage that time flies when you’re having fun. Well, I must have been having lots of fun because it’s been over fifty years since I commenced my college journey as a freshman at Arkansas A. M. & N. College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, but it barely seems a fraction of the time. In fact, if my beard wasn’t so gray and my head completely bald, I might try to convince myself that I’m still a young person!

HBCU Class of 2016: Top 10 Tips for The Journey Ahead

May 11, 2016

top10Dear HBCU Graduates,

First and foremost, congratulations on successfully pursuing and completing your baccalaureate degree! As a college graduate, you join a network of 22% of all African Americans who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. For those of you who represent the increasing racial and ethnic diversity at our HBCUs, you are among the growing number of non-black students who have experienced the tremendous value of an HBCU education.

Free Community Colleges and HBCUs: Four Things to Consider

April 1, 2016

Recently I shared some thoughts on Twitter @CharlieNelms during a discussion about free community colleges. I tweeted “Those who assert that free community college will not hurt HBCUs are uninformed at best. Free CC is not the bargain many may think it is.”

It can be challenging to expound in depth with a 140-character limit! On the other hand, Twitter opens the door to a broader conversation about the questions I think we should consider when we hear proposals for free community colleges.

Changing the Way We Celebrate Black History

February 9, 2016

It’s time to reconsider how we celebrate Black History Month. As a Baby Boomer who grew up in the Deep South during an era of segregation, I have vivid memories of what we used to call Negro History Week. In my day, we had to take courses in Arkansas history. Yet neither this nor our other history classes included the contributions of blacks in history. 

Five Approaches to Increasing HBCU Sustainability

October 23, 2015

Five Approaches to Increasing HBCU SustainabilityA recent Moody’s Investor Services report predicts that the closure rates of small colleges and universities will triple in the coming years—and mergers will double. Moody’s defines small colleges and universities as private colleges with operating revenue below $100 million and public colleges below $200 million. This means as many as 15 institutions a year will permanently shut their doors by 2017. What are the implications of these challenges for HBCUs?

HBCU Alignment: 5 Critical Areas that Need Adjustments

August 5, 2015 by Charlie Nelms

new-presidentsAs a stalwart advocate and supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), I have been thinking a lot lately about what ails this sector of the academy and what can be done to enhance its relevance, responsiveness and competitiveness. Although both critics and supporters tend to write and speak about HBCUs as a monolithic group, doing so undervalues the diversity of the sector and the need to reject the one size fits all approach to addressing the challenges that many of these institutions face.

Increasing the Probability of HBCU Presidential Success

June 7, 2015 by Charlie Nelms

new-presidentsGiven the array of presidential leadership changes taking place in the HBCU sector, I have given a great deal of thought to what can be done to increase the probability of success for new presidents. While there are no magic bullets, I believe that there are at least five things that can and should be done to strengthen presidential leadership success.

NCAA: Somebody Ought To Say Something and Do Something

March 25, 2015 by Charlie Nelms

Among the top seeded teams in the 2015 NCAA tournament, many have teams that are overwhelmingly black. Yet, the university executive leadership teams, trustees, faculty and staff are disproportionately or all white. As I watch black athletes at PWIs entertain their fellow students, alumni and donors, I must admit that it’s a bit disconcerting.

Selecting a College: 10 Things All Seniors Need to Know

January 25, 2015 by Charlie Nelms

Selecting a College: 10 Things All Seniors Need to KnowArguably, deciding where to attend college is one of the most important decisions a high school student will ever make. Yet, it is often not a decision made with the level of objective analysis, consideration and care it deserves.

How I Got Over: My Soul Looks Back and Wonders

November 19, 2014 by Charlie Nelms

How I Got Over: My Soul Looks Back and WondersLos Angeles, Little Rock, Chicago, Pine Bluff, Dallas, Peoria, Las Vegas, St Louis, Houston, Memphis and Phoenix were just a few of the many cities from which the members of the UAPB Class of 1969 traveled for our 45th college reunion, November 7-9. There we were, many of us dressed in some of the latest designer clothes, sporting stylish haircuts, weaves and a tinge of color that accentuated our mature and attractive faces. […]


Why I Still Love My Alma Mater 45 Years Later

September 19, 2014 by Charlie Nelms

Why I Still Love My Alma Mater 45 Years Later by Charlie NelmsForty-five years ago my college classmates and I became the largest class to ever graduate from Arkansas Agricultural Mechanical and Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Like countless numbers of UAPB graduates before us, we have had successful careers […]

Class of 2018: How to Have a Successful Freshman Year

Unsolicited Advice for Parents and Students from a Three-time University President As a university president, the annual ritual that I loved most was the opportunity to welcome new freshmen to campus. No matter how busy I was, I always made time to meet new students and their parents and to assist them with moving into […]