3 degrees of Separation – The story of HBCU’s and potential impacts

David W. Hoard

By David W. Hoard, President, DHT & Associates

Many of us are familiar with the old phrase and theory of “six degrees of separation.”  The concept goes that everyone in the world is connected by six degrees or contacts from each other.  It’s a fun game when it is played out to see how people are interconnected.

The African American community is even more interconnected, and I feel that instead of “six degrees” it is simply three degrees.  It might be even less as it seems within my world over the years, everyone has a relationship with someone who attended an HBCU.  It could be an alumnus, church member, relative, co-worker and on and on.  Everyone is connected in the African American world to an HBCU.

How HBCU’s take advantage of this interconnection has been and remains the million-dollar question, literally.  These connections or degrees of separation must be communicated as we tell the success stories of the HBCU’s.  The stories don’t have to be about the firsts within our community but recent successes of the institutions and our graduates.  We must utilize all of the social media tools not on a monthly or weekly basis but daily and perhaps even hourly.

The world is changing rapidly and many HBCU’s are still caught up in the way business was done years ago.  We, in the HBCU community, must invest a few dollars and enhance our websites and keep them current.  We must utilize our social media accounts not just for the occasional highlight but emphasize what is happening at that moment from an institutional perspective.  Students are telling their communities what is going on every few minutes, so we must attempt to get our messages out more often and on a consistent basis.  How many presidents or administrators have Twitter accounts?  The answer is very few, and today even presidential candidates see Twitter as a critical tool to reach their constituencies.  Utilize Snapchat and other tools but we must get savvy with the social media world if we are to take advantage of the “three degrees of separation” that we possess.

Take the time to develop a comprehensive plan for the school year by month and week. List out potential stories for tomorrow each day.  Tie into stories in the news and put your HBCU spin on what is happening on the campus or touching the lives of your alumni. Create policies about how and what to send out but get out there and start shaping your messages to the unique community we have amongst ourselves.  It is an advantage that we have failed to undertake and use.  If we don’t take advantage of the browning of America’s population, we will not be able to compete.  Let’s utilize our built in advantages of our three degrees of separation within the African American community to begin the process and build out from there.