When I think about my own experience in HBCUs , I think back to my first week. I distinctly remember sitting in a group and having a speaker say “look to your left and look to your right, the people sitting beside you may not graduate with you.” I am certain that when the speaker said that, she was trying to motivate us to do the best we could to graduate. However, as I look back I think it is better to tell incoming freshmen. “Look to your left and look to your right, feel that you are responsible to do everything you can to see that the people next to you graduate with you.” HBCUs are an opportunity for young Black people to do something we aren’t always trained to do: build social networks that could lead to wealth and professional advancement.
On the other hand, if the saying is true, and we lose a good portion of our starting class that gives us even more reason to be proactive about building our social networks at the very beginning. In my opinion the reason that Black people remain with the highest unemployment rate out of all ethnic groups is due to the lack of development of our social networks. It’s time that we did some creating of corporate structure instead of maneuvering the current system. HBCUs continue to produce educated, intelligent, and enlightened young professionals, who recognize their place in society and are equipped with the tools to make society better for all of us. It’s a gold mine for building your network.
There is strength in numbers and my advice to incoming freshmen is to make some friends! Get to know your neighbors in your dorm. Speak to the people in front and behind in the lunch line. Join student organizations. Coordinate study groups. Learn, laugh, study, and/or party with other students daily.
College is the best place for building your social network because it only requires you to make as many friends as possible. In the professional world building a network has been reduced to a formula. The Huffington Post has taught us how and Forbes has taught us who. You don’t need a formula in college. College gives you the opportunity to get to know people just to get to know them and since you are all starting your professional journey you also become each other’s professional network.
Getting a degree is not just an individual achievement; it is the achievement of a community. And who knows? Maybe you and your friends will get together one day and start a business that creates opportunities for other HBCU graduates, while providing needed services to the Black community. I have faith in HBCUs, I have faith in the young men and women that attend them. Take advantage of the brilliant minds surrounding you because the dream can only be achieved together.
Live H.O.P.E. Give H.O.P.E.
Karizmatic is a rapper, blogger, policy analyst, and aspiring author with a Bachelor’s Degree from Norfolk State University and a Master’s Degree from George Mason University. He has an acute interest in Politics, Hip Hop, and African American Culture. His motto is “Anything is Possible.”