Why Kamala Harris Will Boost Howard University’s Reputation

Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris has become Howard University’s most famous alum. Her election is expected to boost the HBCU’s profile

In little more than a month when Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president of the United States on Jan. 20, Howard University will also be in the limelight as her alma mater. That prospect will shine a limelight on all the HCBU options in America but none more so than Howard University where Harris majored in political science and economics an was awarded her bachelor’s degree in 1986.

Howard President Wayne A. I. Frederick has called Harris’ elevation to the second-highest office in the land “an extraordinary moment in the history of America and of Howard University,  a milestone opportunity for our democracy to acknowledge the leadership Black women have always exhibited, but has too often been ignored. Let’s pause and take a collective breath that has been denied to so many.”

Harris has often said that her experience at Howard was influential in the person she became. “There are two things that shaped who I am today, my mother and my family, and Howard University,” Harris told Harry L. Williams, CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund when he interviewed her last year at a conference.


And though she earned only her undergraduate degree from Howard, later gaining her law degree from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, the high visibility job she will hold will have a positive impact on every academic program at the school, from business to the social sciences.

The boost it will give to Howard comes at a good time for the university’s business school which this year launched a pair of online MBA programs for the first time. In May of this year, Howard enrolled its first student cohorts in a more traditional MBA as well as an Executive MBA that can be taken by long distance. The school’s online MBA is priced at $70,000 and takes three years to complete, though it’s possible to shorten that timeframe six months by taking a more accelerated course load. The EMBA program, targeted to applicants with ten or more years of work experience, is priced at $68,500 and takes 18 months to complete. 

Former Dean Barron H. Harvey believes the new programs reflect student demand for greater flexibility. “We are finding that there is a growing number of potential candidates for our program who are looking for a more convenient way to access our education,” he says. “This will also widen our footprint not only domestically but internationally as well.”


Howard University Business School Dean Barron H. Harvey

Former Howard University Business School Dean Barron H. Harvey

Howard entered the market in a partnership with Noodle, which has recently helped with the online MBA programs launched the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. Noodle Partners was founded by John Katzman, who also was the founder of 2U, a publicly-traded education provider that is now a major rival to Noodle. Katzman also was the founder of The Princeton Review.

“We have really embarked upon a two-year evaluation of trying to find a partner who understands our mission and vision at Howard,” Harvey told Poets&Quants. “We wanted to make sure that partner has the capability and record of success to enable us to deliver a quality program online. Noodle has already been demonstrating their ability to understand our mission and has been working seamlessly with us on the programs.

“We thought we had much of what we needed but when we had the opportunity to work with John and the Noodle experts, we found out that putting on a robust and quality course is a lot more than just dropping it on an LMS (learning management system) with assignments and recorded lectures,” adds Harvey.

“It really is about trying to ensure that you give the online learner a special and unique experience. You think you are an expert in your subject matter and you think you know how to deliver it. But when you begin to work with experts who have done it across a number of institutions, you find that they can share what works and what doesn’t. It is fantastic.”


Given the fast turnaround time, Harvey was expecting relatively small cohorts of 15 students for each program to enroll last May.  “Our overall goal would be 30 students for each cohort going forward,” he says. “We are eager. We’re hungry. We want to get this thing out.”

Katzman says the partnership developed after conversations with Harvey that began a year ago.  “I’ve known Dean Harvey for a while and then we were reintroduced a year ago and just started talking about what it would look like to build the first program of real quality and scale for African-American students,” says Katzman. “As we played with it, it just more and more intrigued me to build something iconic and league-leading. 

“We will be starting new cohorts several times a year,” says Katzman. “It is a shakeout cruise. You want to get everyone working and students who are highly motivated and a little bit more flexible and work out all the kinks before you scale up.”


Howard, with a full-time MBA program that has an enrollment of 110 students and a part-time MBA with roughly 20 students, will have three intakes for both programs in the fall, spring and summer. The traditional MBA requires 48 credits to graduate, while the EMBA will mandate the completion of 42 credits.

Howard decided to launch two online MBAs rather than one, explains Harvey, because he views the programs serving two distinct markets. “There are two different markets and demographics for the MBA,” he says. “The profile we have for the online MBA is a person who has worked for two to four years in a management or professional position and is looking for a quality education to propel them into the higher ranks within their area of experience or to go into a new area.

“For the Executive MBA, there is a market and desire to provide education to those who have ten or more years of experience and want to enhance the career they already have. The program will serve senior people who want to enhance their movement within their companies and enhance their skill sets to serve their current and future aspirations.”


Both programs will cover many of the business basics, from accounting and analytics to finance and marketing, but the online EMBA will be more applied and experiential, tapping into the expertise those more experienced professionals can bring to class. “We’ll have those individuals bring their projects and challenges into the classroom,” adds Harvey. “In the MBA program, we will use a lot of cases.”

Online students can expect to devote about 20 hours a week to the programs which will feature both live Internet classes as well as videotaped segments and assignments. Students will take two courses per semester over eight semesters. The school also is planning a residential experience on campus that will likely run between two to four days, says Harvey. While there are plans for concentrations in such areas as supply chain logistics, finance, marketing, and strategic management, the first cohorts will not have the option to specialize.

Harvey said that Howard will recommend that applicants submit a GMAT or GRE test score for admissions but that waivers will be granted on the basis of an advanced degree or exemplary work performance.

In any case, with Kamala Harris in the White House, Howard should expect that demand will rise for its academic degrees, including these new online offerings in business.

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