Gerald Hector talks Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins on 'It's Easy Son'
Updated: Jun 27
Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins is a woman with extensive higher education experience who is adept at the inner workings of HBCUs, having worked at six (South Carolina State, Johnson C. Smith University, Dillard University, Cheyney University, Bennett College, and Clark Atlanta University). During her tenure as the Eighteenth President of Bennett College, she spearheaded a successful bipartisan legislative effort with UNCF that enabled Bennett and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to get deferments on payments to the HBCU Capital Finance Loan Program in 53 days. She also led the nationwide StandWithBennett Campaign that yielded 9.5 million dollars in 60 days and 10.5 million with the June 2019 audit. In her career, she has fundraised more than $19 million and acquired over $54 million in state and federal grants.
Currently, she is the Executive Program Director of the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute at Clark Atlanta University (HBCU ELI at CAU). It is built around a framework of 13 Competencies that Deans, Provosts, new Presidents, and corporate executives should know and be able to perform at HBCUs. Dawkins serves on the Boards of Goddard College in Vermont, the George Floyd Memorial Center and was a thought partner with the Minority Broadband Initiative of NTI NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration). She consults with or presents at several HBCUs (81/101), organizations, professional meetings, summer institutes, conferences, etc. on fundraising, grant writing, assessment, academic program evaluation/reviews, education technology, accreditation, learning communities, faculty development, etc.
From 2018-2020, Dawkins served on the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. This prestigious appointment meant that she had a seat at the table to advise the US President and the Secretary of Education on all matters pertaining to strengthening the educational capacity of HBCUs through the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The PBA also advised on participation by HBCUs in federally-sponsored programs; made recommendations in reports on how to increase the private sector role in strengthening HBCUs, with particular emphasis on enhancing institutional infrastructure and the use of new technologies. Dawkins has participated in the White House Initiative on HBCUs conferences, the HBCU Caucus Steam Day of Action, the HBCU Fly-In sponsored by Congressmen Mark Walker & Senator Tim Scott of S.C., and the Congressional Black Caucus Meeting.
On December 11, 2019, she was appointed as a National Senior Fellow to the Council Exchange Board of Trade (CEBOT). In this role, she is serving as the National Executive Director of Higher Education. Together with a diverse team of CEBOT Subject Matter Experts, Dawkins delivers innovative, evidence based, data driven and revenue generating opportunities to the HBCU ecosystem. In January 2020, she represented CEBOT and spoke at the Treasury and General Services Administration (GSA) Official MOU Signing: Celebrating a Landmark Agreement to Increase HBCU Participation in Federal Contracting, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Furthermore, she has presented on the joint capabilities for HBCUs to partner with Minority Technology Businesses regarding Federal Contracts in May 2020 at the SMART HBCU HUB Invitational Workshop.
In the past, she has served on the following boards/national committees: National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), Committee on Student Aid, 2019-2021; North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities (NCICU) Executive Committee, 2018-2019; Greensboro Chamber of Commerce Board, Member, 2017-2019; Black College Fund, United Methodist Church, President’s Advisory Board, 2015-2019; Advisory Board for Preparing Critical Faculty for the Future (PCFF) in STEM, an AAC&U NSF funded project, 2011- 2015; Leadership Alliance AGEP Planning Grant Advisory Committee, 2011-2013; and Melton Foundation Board, International Organization on Global Citizenship, 2011-2013. Furthermore, was a member of the Bennett College Foster Care Advisory Board (funded by Kenan Foundation), HBCURCC Research Advisory Board (Tougaloo College); Southern Learning Communities Advisory Board, and the N.C. State Evaluation Committee on Teacher Education.
Dawkins was a tenured and full professor, and worked as the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bennett College, Cheyney University in Cheyney, Pennsylvania and at Dillard University in New Orleans, as Department Chair, Dean, and Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at her alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina and as an Instructor of Physical Education at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC. She assumed critical responsibilities at those institutions to ensure successful reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for JCSU and Dillard, and by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) for Cheyney.
In terms of federal grants, she wrote/co-wrote and secured funds with colleagues from the National Institute of Health on Minority Health Disparities, NSF HBCU-UP Grant: Interdisciplinary Approach to Increasing Minorities in SMET Disciplines and Title III. She has also secured a number of private foundation grants. Further she participated in or presented at the NIH NITAAC HBCU (federal contracts) Webinar, Smart HBCU Federal Contracting and Planning: State of HBCUs & COVID-19, North Carolina Opportunity Zone Now Summit, HBCU-UP Grant Writing Workshop, Department of Energy Workshops, University and Laboratory Leadership Summit at Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies, MARC NIH Grant Writing Workshops, Department of Transportation Workshop, National Academy of Sciences Workshop, and Department of Defense HBCU/MI Regional Training Conference. She served as a Grant Reviewer for NASA Peer Review Services.
In terms of professional development, Dawkins is a Co-founder of the HBCU Faculty Development Network, a former past President of the Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD), a Liaison Officer for the NYU Faculty Resource Network, a Resource Faculty at the Washington Center’s National Summer Institutes on Learning Communities and on Teaching and Learning since 2002 at Evergreen State College, and member of the Advisory Council and Senior Consultant for the TLT (Teaching & Learning with Technology) Group and the International Council for Educational Developers (ICED). Dawkins is also an accomplished writer whose academic research has been published (19 refereed/non-refereed) in various journals and periodicals.
Among her numerous awards, in 2019 Dawkins was presented with The Trailblazer Award by the Higher Leadership Foundation (HELF), the Village Legacy Award by AFRAM, Leading Lady Award presented by Student Leadership and Engagement at Johnson C. Smith University, Angel Award Certificate from Bennett College’s Department of Campus Life, International Women’s Day Award at BC, Leadership Award by the Links Incorporated (DC Chapter), City of Greensboro Resolution for the #StandWithBennett Campaign. In 2018 Dawkins was recognized as one of the Top 50 Most Influential African Americans in the Piedmont Triad by Black Business Ink Magazine during the 2108 State of Black North Carolina Conference. In 2017, Dawkins received the National HBCU Pre-Law Summit Special Recognition Award. In 2016, she was recognized as an Outstanding JCSU Alumni Woman and received the Bob Pierleoni Spirit of POD Award. In 2014, Dawkins was presented with the Education & Community Service Award by Distinguished Partners and recognized by the Philadelphia Tribune’s as an Outstanding African American Leader in Philadelphia. In 2013, Dawkins received numerous awards from the faculty and other units (LAMP, College of Business, and Academic Affairs) at Dillard University. Dawkins is a member of the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars and Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society.
In terms of leadership development, Dawkins received a certificate of achievement/leadership from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities New Presidents Academy 2014; Executive Leadership Summit, Hampton University, 2007; CIC Workshop for Department and Division (Dean) Chairs, 2007; Harvard Institute for Higher Education, Management and Leadership in Education (MLE), 2004; Mable Parker McLean Women’s UNCF Leadership Development Forum, 2004, and JCSU Faculty Senate (as President).
Dawkins received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, M.A. from University of Michigan, and B.S. from Johnson C. Smith University. She is married to Bobby G. Dawkins, Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry, and they have two adult daughters: Malia Dawkins Jennings (Derek), M.A., an actress/writer/producer and an Account Manager for NCompass International; and Demi Dawkins, M.D., who recently completed a Neurosurgery Residency at the University of Wisconsin and now is working as a Neurosurgery Fellow in Memphis. In her spare time, Dawkins enjoys watching period pieces, working puzzles, and traveling.