6 African American Women Presidents at MSIs

by Kelly Lewis

2017 was a year filled of #BlackGirlMagic. Black Girl Magic is a term used to illustrate the collective awesomeness of black women. Throughout last year we watched the fierceness of Serena Williams and Simone Bliss dominate sports, Ava DuVernay shock the world of directing, and Senator Maxine Waters’ reclaim her time as a member of U.S. Congress. In the spirit of celebrating #BlackGirlMagic and Black women’s efforts, today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up highlights Black Female presidents serving at Minority Serving Institution.

1) Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis: Benedict College (HBCU)—Columbia, SC

070317_Roslyn_ArtisDr. Roslyn Clark Artis is a rising star among college presidents. She first made history by becoming the first president in of Florida Memorial University in 2014. Less than three years later, she is once again making history as the first woman President of Benedict College. Dr. Artis brings her law expertise and Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University to the higher education sector.

2) Brenda Thames: West Hills College Coalinga (HSI)— Coalinga, CA


Brenda Thames began her duties as West Hill College Coalinga’s President in February 2017. President Thames was trained by some of the nation’s top institutions and brings 20 years of experience in the higher education sectors. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Sociology and Social Welfare from University of California— Berkeley, a Master of Arts degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from USC. In addition to her credentials, she served as a Vice President of Instruction at Modesto Junior College, Completed the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management, and was an Aspen Presidential Fellow for Community College Excellence.

3) Dr. Aminta Hawkins Breaux: Bowie State University (HBCU)—Bowie, MD


Dr. Aminta Hawkins succeeds former president, Dr. Mickey L. Burnim, by becoming the first female president at Bowie State University. Prior to this presidency, President Breaux formerly served as Vice President for Advancement at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of the Harvard Institute for Executive Management and the American Association for State Colleges and Universities Millennium Leadership Institute. President Breaux holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Temple University, a master’s degree in Psychological Services in Education from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Temple University.

4) Dr. Ruth Simmons: Prairie View A&M University (HBCU)—Prairie View, Texas 


Dr. Ruth Simmons made history in 2001 by becoming the first African-American and first female president of an Ivy League Institution– Brown University. Dr. Simmons has served as a Dean, Vice Provost, Provost, and President of several universities and is currently the Interim President of Prairie View A&M University. Dr. Simmons is a graduate of Dillard university and Harvard’s Doctoral Roman Languages and Literature program.

5) Soraya M. Coley: California State Polytechnic University-Pomona (AANAPISI/HSI)—Pomona, California


Prior to becoming the sixth president of Cal Poly Pomona in January 2015, Dr. Soraya Coley has had more than 20 years of experience in higher education. Before her arrival to Cal Poly Pomona, President Coley served as Provost and Vice president for Academic Affairs and Interim Vice President for University Advancement for 7 years at a host of different universities. President Coley has also served as a Professor and Department Chair, College Dean, and Administrative Fellow. Coley earned a bachelor’s in sociology from Lincoln University before obtaining a master’s in social planning and social research from Bryn Mawr. She later acquired a Ph.D. in social planning and policy from Bryn Mawr. 

6) Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell: Spelman College (HBCU)—Atlanta, GA


Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell became the 10th president of Spelman College in 2015. Prior to arriving to this historical Liberal arts college for women of African descent, she ran the prestigious Tisch School of Arts at New York University (NYU) for over two decades. President Campbell has been appointed Vice Chair of the Committee on the Arts and Humanities under the Obama administrations, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and currently sits on the boards for many prominent foundations. Dr. Campbell received a bachelor’s of art degree from Swarthmore College, a master’s of art in art history, and Ph.D. in Humanities from Syracuse University.

Do you know any other Black women who serve as presidents at MSIs? Share in the comments below!


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