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        Our Alma Mater
February 2021

2020 was quite a year, but our Alma Mater stood strong!

It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all institutions of higher education, including Fisk University. Yet, Fisk University is among a small group of colleges and universities, particularly historically black colleges and universities, which have fared comparatively well during this crisis. COVID-19 infections within the Fisk University community have remained extremely low, even as the pandemic continues to surge throughout the country.  

Fisk is one of nine UNCF HBCUs that experienced enrollment gains for the current academic year.  With over 900 students enrolled, Fisk implemented a hybrid instructional model, dividing the fall semester into two sessions with freshmen on campus during the first half and upperclassmen for the second half. And, throughout it all the University remains focused on maintaining positive momentum across all areas of its operations including strengthening University leadership, accreditation and financial strength, and academic excellence.

Growth Within the Leadership Team

As alumni, we all have an interest in the strength and performance of the University leadership.

The University Board of Trustees Fisk named Dr. Vann Newkirk Sr. as the 17th President of the University. Dr. Newkirk initially joined the Fisk team as Provost in 2018 and has been a proven leader in higher education for more than 20 years. “We have had the pleasure of observing Dr. Newkirk’s outstanding work both as Provost and as interim President, and this was a unanimous decision by the Board”, said Chair Frank. L. Sims.

The University also recently announced the appointment of four new members to the Board of Trustees. Each of the University’s new directors brings a tremendous amount of expertise in areas vital to Fisk’s future success and will help expand upon the remarkable momentum that Fisk has built over the past several years.

Accreditation and Financial Strength

The entire Fisk family was elated that on September 2, 2020, the University was notified by officials with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that Fisk University’s three-year process to settle its accreditation had concluded and probation had officially been lifted. The SACS decision was a strong acknowledgment of Fisk’s outstanding progress in strengthening each of the University’s major revenue streams, setting fundraising records, increasing enrollment, lowering the discount rate, improving academic quality, and strengthening our balance sheet. The results reflect a deliberate plan to build a sustainable and scalable business model for the future of Fisk.

Continuing the Legacy of Academic Excellence

Recognizing the surge in demand for mathematicians and computer scientists, Fisk has launched focus areas in data science, bio mathematics and informatics in addition to building partnerships throughout the year that provide opportunities for Fisk students to enhance their learning, gain new skills and obtain valuable exposure to career options. 

For example, Nashville-based tech care company Asurion launched a new data science scholarship program at Fisk with a $200,000 investment, to provide Fisk students with scholarships and other opportunities to help them succeed in the workforce after they graduate.  The university also announced it will join Apple’s Community Education Initiative to bring coding and creativity experiences to the broader city community.

Additionally, Dr. Saumya Ramanathan, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Fisk was awarded an almost half-million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation for research in Cancer Biology.  The grant will support the efforts of her lab, including student trainees, in making important discoveries about a group of genes implicated in cancer.

Student Excellence

Despite the challenges of 2020, and reality of social distancing and virtual fatigue, Fisk remains committed to the success of its students who continue to excel in the classroom and beyond.

An example of the excellence of Fisk students is seen with the production, for the second consecutive year, of a Rhodes Scholarship nationwide finalist. Imani Campbell, a political science and history major and a member of the W.E.B. DuBois Honors College, was invited in November of 2020 to interview for what is widely considered the most prestigious academic scholarship available worldwide.  Ms. Campbell represents the third Fisk student to make it to the Rhodes Scholarships finals in the last two years, illustrating the exceptionalism of Fisk students and the value of investing in a Fisk education.

Moving Forward From a Position of Strength

Fisk continues to produce leaders and scholars of the future and alumni should rest assured that its leadership, faculty, staff and students are focused on delivering excellence. As alumni, let’s proudly share the news that despite the challenges of 2020, our alma mater stands strong and has undeniably positive momentum that will carry it into the future. 

Fisk Forever!

Fisk University, in its educational programs and activities involving students and employees, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or age. Furthermore, the university does not discriminate against veterans or individuals with disabilities.