Barbara Bernard is the Co-founder and Executive Director of The Malcolm Bernard Historically Black Colleges & Universities College Fair, Inc. She is an alumnus of Hampton University where she obtained her B.S. in Mathematics Education, after which she attended Rutgers University to get her M.B.A. Ms. Bernard worked first as a programmer in Information Systems and retired as an Assistant Director of Human Resources Systems. She never lost her desire to support HBCUs. Hence, the college fair was started in 1999 to educate others about the value of HBCUs. Through the years, Barbara Bernard has received community service and education awards for her consistent dedication to the Black academic community. Today, her organization sees over 12,000 incredibly talented students who annually participate in educational forums held in six locations in NJ, NY and PA. She is currently preparing for the latest fair which will take place November 16-22 of this year.
Ms. Bernard recognizes that HBCUs are historically important because they provided education to people of color after the Civil War. They played a major role in moving Black people toward economic equality, and equal financial footing on the path to the middle class for teachers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals.
“HBCUs continue to contribute to the economic development of our community by graduating 16% of African American college students while being only 3% of all colleges in the United States.” Ms. Bernard expressed that at the center of her organization, she aimed to connect students to HBCUs; and their community of faculty and students to perpetuate uplifting the Black community. She understands personally how much of a community-driven spirit that these HBCUs embody.
“HBCUs have a nurturing, mentorship environment with small class sizes so you're more than a number.They are like an extended family with shared social values, comfort and safety. HBCUs have excellent curriculums, preparing students for 21st century jobs. HBCUs focus on confidence building through leadership roles in campus organizations and developmental opportunities like internships and international study abroad programs that prepare students for jobs in a diverse workforce. These are just some of the historical and future reasons people should embrace going to HBCUs.”
Barbara Bernard agrees with many others in her thoughts about how support of HBCUs can be improved through increased financial support from generous donors and from the government. She comments that “even just a few dollars a year from every HBCU graduate can have a positive impact and enhance the financial standing of their alma mater. HBCU alumni can also help to dispel the myths that prevent some people from embracing HBCUs.” She mentions that young students should look for scholarships and grants that many others may normally overlook when looking into attending an HBCU. There is a lot of money that goes unused because people don't always know where to look for help with making college affordable. Spending a few years at community college and then going on to matriculate into an HBCU is another viable option.
When prompted about how all of this fits into her view of the African Diaspora, Ms. Bernard mentioned that when she thinks of it, she sees “waves of beautiful Black people moving across the continents bringing their knowledge and culture with them for the good of all mankind.”