Bison Engagement Tour Report

Ben Vinson III, Ph.D.


See President Vinson's full letter to the community.

I am inspired by this community and what I know we can achieve together. In September, I embarked on the Bison Engagement Tour across our beloved campus, meeting with students, faculty, and staff to better understand both the challenges and opportunities ahead for our University.

The Objective

Bison Engagement - By the Numbers


In September 2023, Ben Vinson, III, Ph.D., Howard University’s 18th President, embarked upon the Bison Engagement Tour at the start of his administration, to connect with a cross-section of members from the Howard University community. The objective of the tour was to deepen his understanding of what makes Howard unique and to assist the administration with effectively addressing the needs of and leveraging strengths of our community. The results of the tour were remarkable and resounding!

We are excited to share the results in the newly released Bison Engagement Tour Report, a summary of insights and key findings from those meaningful conversations.

As you view the Bison Engagement Tour Report Video and the full Report, we hope you are further inspired about the future, as we move Howard University forward towards maximum strength! If you have questions about the tour or the report, please email

Our Approach

The structure of the engagement tour was built around key questions that would deepen my understanding of what makes Howard unique and assist my administration in effectively addressing our needs and leveraging our strengths, including:

  1. What would you like me to know as your new president — things you are most proud of — to help me weave a narrative, tell stories of Howard, of your school, college, or unit, to those I meet to promote the University?
  2. What are the things you think I should know so that I can do my job as best as I can, and what might be some solutions you would suggest for our University to move forward?
Bison Engagement - By the Numbers

Points of Pride

Howard University, a beacon of excellence and a pillar in the Black community, has long stood as a testament to resilience, innovation, and a deep-seated commitment to social justice and equity. President Vinson’s Bison Engagement Tour has underscored the university's multifaceted strengths and areas of pride that resonate deeply with students, faculty, and staff. These findings highlight the university's rich legacy and culture, its unwavering dedication to providing a quality education from a distinctly Black perspective, and its robust support for student growth and well-being.

Legacy and Culture

Legacy and Culture Icon

There is deep pride about Howard’s Legacy and Culture. There are three points of note here: History, Inclusion, and Service. Let me dive in.

  • History: The people who work and study at Howard deeply love the university and are mindful and proud of its great history and legacy, of walking in the footsteps of giants.
  • Inclusion: Howard is a very special place that warmly welcomes its new employees and students and attracts many former employees and alumni to return.
  • Service: Howard has a long tradition of providing social services to communities in the DMV region and elsewhere in the nation.

Quality of Education

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  • Brand: Howard’s brand is solid, and well-known, and the university attracts talented students, faculty, and staff.
  • Programs: Howard boasts rigorous and diverse academic programs, and it is the most comprehensive HBCU and the leading producer of Black professionals.
  • Pedagogy: Howard provides an education across its fourteen schools and colleges that is unapologetically from a Black perspective.  
  • Collections: The size of Howard’s fine arts and archival collections are unrivaled and among the largest in the world.



Research Icon
  • Significant growth in research productivity, external grants, and scholarly publications, putting Howard on the path to an R1 research designation.
  • The establishment of the first University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) led by any HBCU, marking a major milestone towards becoming a research-intensive institution.
  • Strong partnerships with industry, research agencies, and international institutions, 
  • facilitating impactful research and educational opportunities.


Planning Icon
  • The Howard Forward Strategic Plan leading to significant advancements in academic excellence, community service, and financial sustainability.
  • Innovative strategic planning across schools and colleges to adapt to the evolving higher education ecosystem.
  • Implementation of new systems like BisonHub to improve operational efficiency and facilitate academic and financial transactions.

Student Support

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  • A student-centered culture focusing on personal and professional growth, with faculty dedicated to pushing students to excel.
  • Enhanced investment in student services, leading to improved retention and graduation rates.
  • Comprehensive mental health services and unique support programs, emphasizing the importance of wellness in the community.
  • The role of the University Chapel in promoting spirituality, wellness, community building, and civic engagement.
  • Increased opportunities for study abroad, emphasizing the importance of global experiences for students.

Key Findings

The key findings and recommendations from the Bison Engagement Tour are categorized according to common themes that emerged throughout the tour during conversations with members of our community: Enhancing Student Success, Elevating Research and Learning, Advancing Engagement and University Communications, Improving Operations Efficiency and Effectiveness, and Sustaining Financial Strength.

Enhancing Student Success

Howard Howard Pillar Icon - Enhance Academic Excellence

Howard University has significantly invested in enhancing academic quality and improving students’ postgraduate outcomes. We’ve attracted and nurtured top-tier talent, such as Stacey Abrams, our inaugural Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics; and Sherrilyn Ifill, our inaugural Vernon Jordan Endowed Chair in Civil Rights. These appointments underscore our commitment to academic excellence and deepen the University's educational mission. Further, the University has continued to develop innovative programs to enhance student job prospects through the Academic Innovation Office.

Access the full report to learn more about this finding and others


Elevating Research and Learning

Howard Howard Pillar Icon - Inspire New Knowledge

Howard’s recent accomplishments in research, innovation, and entrepreneurship have been nothing short of remarkable. We surpassed our research funding goal two years ahead of schedule – raising $122 million in 2022, a $31 million increase from the previous year – and secured groundbreaking grants to recenter the Black perspective across research disciplines. Notably, Howard became the first HBCU contracted by the Pentagon to establish a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), receiving a five-year $90 million contract which will create opportunities for Howard students to obtain hands-on experience in research and development.

Access the full report to learn more about this finding and others

Advancing Engagement And University Communications

Howard Howard Pillar Icon - Serve Our Community

Howard University leadership is dedicated to nurturing an open and transparent community that supports students, staff, and faculty. Moreover, University leadership remains committed to engaging directly with the Howard community through regular gatherings that unite various segments of our campus. These convenings will foster collaboration across communities that may not regularly interact, creating opportunities to strengthen our mission to address challenges affecting the Black community. In March 2024, Howard celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Alternative Spring Break program, which received a record 2,100 applicants. Concurrently, Howard has maintained strong partnerships with foundations and philanthropic organizations to advance the University’s mission of service, including its collaboration with the PNC Foundation, which aims to bolster resources and support for Black business owners across the country. Howard will continue to expand its service to the Black community and bolster lines of communication and trust with community members.

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Improving Operational Efficiency And Effectiveness

Howard Howard Pillar Icon - Improving Efficiency

The University is currently undergoing its largest capital real estate initiative – a $785 million Campus Master Plan – which significantly accelerated the construction of new academic centers and improved administrative services. The Master Plan will revitalize Howard’s campus and ensure that our facilities are equipped with state- of-the-art equipment and resources to prepare our students for the workplaces and challenges of the future. Further, the University is bolstering campus housing and institutional management to meet the needs of a growing student body.

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Sustaining Financial Strength

Howard Howard Pillar Icon - Achieving Financial Sustainability

Increased enrollment, alumni contributions, federal appropriations, and academic awards at Howard have significantly strengthened the University’s financial health. Noteworthy contributions include a $20 million donation from Carrie Walton Penner and Greg Penner to support the Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant Endowment Fund, and MacKenzie Scott’s $12 million unrestricted gift to the College of Medicine. These donations will be vital for student retention and the construction of new innovation centers on campus.

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Full Bison Engagement Report

Read the full report