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White House to Name Head of HBCU Initiative

September 18, 2017

The Trump administration is expected to name Johnathan Holifield, an author and consultant, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

After saying earlier this month that it would delay its annual HBCU Week Conference, the administration plans to hold meetings with key leaders and students from historically black colleges this week. 

Although the White House would not confirm the appointment ahead of an official announcement, the United Negro College Fund released a statement Sunday saying it had learned Holifield would be named executive director. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF's president and CEO, said the group looked forward to hearing how Holifield would advance the interests of historically black institutions and ensure more African Americans get the opportunity to attend and graduate college. 

“As we have done since the start of the new administration, UNCF will seek every opportunity to present Mr. Holifield with our federal policy proposals and enlist his essential support of investments in HBCUs and, most importantly, our students," Lomax said in a statement. 

Organizations including UNCF and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, as well key members of Congress, had earlier called for the White House to delay the annual HBCU Week Conference scheduled for September 17-19. They cited the long delay in naming a new executive director, as well as other slow progress advancing priorities of historically black colleges since the signing of a presidential executive order in February. Some of those calls also followed intense controversy over President Donald Trump's reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. After a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing woman and injuring several others, Trump made comments suggesting "both sides" were to blame. 

Holifield frequently serves as a speaker on issues of innovation, especially how it can be more inclusive. He co-founded Scale Up Partners, a consulting firm that has worked with businesses as well as colleges and universities. Holifield has a history of involvement with the HBCU Innovation Summit. He Forbes in 2013, that HBCUs were disconnected "from the nation’s innovation ecosystems."

He holds a master of education and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. Holifield also played Division I football for West Virginia University and later the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL. 

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Andrew Kreighbaum

Andrew Kreighbaum joins Inside Higher Ed as our federal policy reporter. Andrew comes to us from The Investigative Reporting Workshop. He received his master's in data journalism at the University of Missouri, and has interned at USA Today and a national journalism institute in Columbia, MO. Before getting his master's, Andrew spent three years covering government and education at local papers in El Paso, McAllen and Laredo, Texas. He graduated in 2010 from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in history and was news editor at The Daily Texan.

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