Dr. Kevin James is eager to lead Morris Brown College into a new era

In an interview with theGrio, the college president shared what the institution's reaccreditation means for all HBCUs.

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Morris Brown College, a private, liberal arts HBCU in Atlanta, has received accreditation candidacy through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) after nearly 20 years without the certification.

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Dr. Kevin James, president of the institution, shared with theGrio the next steps for Morris Brown as he leads the college into a new era.

“Accreditation candidacy is a term set forth by our accreditor that we have met the standards required, that are synonymous with quality,” he shared during a Zoom interview on Friday.

“We have demonstrated that we were able to meet those standards. And not to mention, it allows us to also apply for federal financial aid. Additionally, the last thing is that we had to do an on-site visit as a part of that process. Our Accreditor did appear for an on-site visit at Morris Brown.”

Dr. Kevin James www.theGrio.com
Dr. Kevin James via Morris Brown College

theGrio reported Morris Brown lost its accreditation in 2002 due to financial discrepancies. Federal funding was also revoked, nearly closing the historical institution. The college is now eligible to apply to the U.S Department of Education to participate in financial aid programs and Title IV funding. For the college to gain candidacy, they had to be in basic compliance with the Standards and Criteria and have been evaluated by an on-site peer team.

Dr. James has made huge strides for Morris Brown in a short amount of time. He became interim president of the college in March 2019 and was named the 19th president in May 2020. With the first anniversary of his official tenure approaching, the higher education professional is excited to be a part of the landmark restorative process.

“I’m honored to lead the institution at this time in history. I believe my God sent me to the institution to lend my leadership to restore the institution. It’s so exciting [and] it means so much,” he shared. “It was so great this week to see all the smiling faces. Everybody was happy and sure yes because a lot of people didn’t think this was even possible. And so we’ve been able to do a lot in a very short amount of time.”

Once the announcement of the reaccreditation spread, social media users rejoiced at the news.

“AHHHHHHH, WE DID IT!!!!! WE SAVED MORRIS BROWN COLLEGE,” tweeted Jessmine M. Cornelius, the Registrar and Project Coordinator at Morris Brown College. “Nothing but tears of JOY as I type this! We are on step closer to receiving full accreditation again! After eighteen years, Morris Brown College is BACK!

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Ushering in a new establishment, Dr. James has specific goals set while president of the small yet mighty college.

“I want Morris Brown to be one of the top, historically black colleges in the state of Georgia. I want us to grow a vibrant campus where students are learning. I hope that Morris Brown becomes a first choice, that Morris Brown becomes an opportunity and a wave of providing educational opportunity,” James stated.

So they can go out into the world and either go to graduate school or go out into their field of choice of whatever field of endeavor they choose and be successful, contributing students, and members of the members of our society.”

The accreditation of Morris Brown is one signifier of the reestablishment of HBCUs into the forefront and the premier choice for Black students. Rapper and business mogul Master P’s son Hercy Miller announced his decision to attend and play basketball at Tennessee State University.

The 2021 NBA All-Star game generated $3 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities through donations to scholarship funds. It spotlighted HBCU culture during almost every All-Star element set that showcased and celebrated HBCU traditions. 

Last month, Spelman College announced it broke an all-time record for applications to attend the legacy all-girls college this upcoming fall semester.

“It says that people are now seeing the value and the relevance of historically black colleges and universities, we’ve always been relevant, but now people are really getting a good look because it’s a bigger spotlight on HBCUs. I believe a lot of this came out of the wake of all the social issues that are going on around the country. I mean, what better place for a Black or brown person to be most safe than an HBCU? I really believe that people are now seeing that, you know,” Dr. James said to theGrio. 

And regarding celebrity or major athletes going to HBCUs, I just think that it’s a great opportunity for all HBCUs to shine. I hope that it’s not a fad and that it will continue.”

As for any doubting the permanence of the Morris Brown revival, Dr. James has one thing to say:

“I would say that we’re under a new administration, we’re under a new leader, we have a new board, we have a new president. We have a new CFO. We have a new registrar and financial aid director; I mean, we have gone through what I call the hard reset.

Basically, we have wiped the slate clean and we’re moving the institution forward in a positive integral way. Anyone who’s interested in Morris Brown, we ask them to go to our website. we’re not focusing on our past, but we’re focusing on our present and our future.”

This success could be more than a win for just Morris Brown. Other closed HBCUs can now look at the Georgia college and realize what may have previously seemed impossible can now be considered a path to new beginnings.

Morris Brown thegrio.com
(image courtesy of Morris Brown College)

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“People say that my energy is contagious, that I have a lot of energy, that I have no excuses, attitude. Get the job done, come together as a team. Let’s do it. No excuses, and so that’s kind of how I lead my day-to-day: let’s get it done. This has never been done before. This is a historic work,” Dr. James expressed to theGrio.

“There’s no case study on how to do something like this. At the end of the day, we’ve been able to prove time and time again that we’re able to move the college forward.”

“I would say this attributed to my leadership style, and maybe, hopefully, others can follow in our footsteps. There are several other HBCUs that are closed, that have contacted me, who have said, ‘you know, wow we’ve been watching you and watching Morris Brown, now maybe we can try,’ and now they’re putting together their boards to make a comeback,” he shared. “So, you know, I think all of these things are a testament of the positive direction that Morris Brown is moving in.”

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