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  • My Degree Is Black

Desmond Watley-Calloway | Morehouse College | '09

Welcome to the MDIB Yard Desmond Watley-Calloway!

Reppin': Morehouse College

Grad: 2009

Major: Business Administration - Management Concentration

Occupation: Stewardship Manager/ Affordable Housing

Can you briefly walk us through your HBCU story? How it started, how you got there, and how it helped you get to where you are today.

Jesus! That's a loaded question. During my senior year of high school, the University of Texas - Austin, and Texas A & M Univ., recruited Evan E. Worthing (gifted & talented, AP, magnet) students heavily; offering $20k + in scholarships to attend. It was by the suggestion of my mentor and school registrar that I apply to Morehouse College. Actually, she printed out the application and handed it to me. Believe it or not, I had never heard of Morehouse College and didn't really know what an HBCU was. I just knew the word "College", and that's where I was headed after grade 12.

Getting there was quite a journey, my parents were deceased and at this point, my grandmother is approximately 80 years old. The environment I was living in was slightly toxic and there had been family issues in the past, but they all seem to come to a head that year. Now my aunt and uncle (grandmothers' children) are college graduates. Oddly enough, my aunt's boyfriend, who despised me, had a greater comprehension of the magnitude of being accepted into Morehouse College, and what going away to college meant, than my family. I remember disliking him so much that when I saw he was a part of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, I vowed to never be associated with the organization or anyone in it. He also was shot and killed 6 months into my freshman year.

Now as far as Morehouse getting me to where I am professional, that's probably a no-go. A decade ago, Morehouse was not structured to develop or educate individuals who dreamed of making an impact in the nonprofit world. Currently, they have more than doubled the number of concentrations in the business department and added several new concentrations related to business; besides the 4 concentrations and 1 econ minor available during my time. By some miraculous coincidence, I had the honor of participating in the Morehouse Public Health Sciences Institute under the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which launched my career. From that one opportunity, I've covered the gamut of the nonprofit arena, such as HIV prevention, housing, social services, and education.

How did your HBCU shape you and impact your understanding of Black Culture?

Morehouse really enlightened me about what Black Male Culture was and is. The beauty that it can be as well as how understated it is outside of those campus walls. The college does an excellent job through oratorical devices, telling the history of what black excellence has been; and somehow, found a unique gift of channeling ancestors into King Chapel, into the seats, and into the minds of those listening. Allowing each person to see themselves carrying the same level of greatness in whatever facet they hold dear.

Before we go any further, let's have a brag session! Tell us about your HBCU(s). What are y'all known for? What are the most exciting things about the yard?

Can't speak too much to excitement. lol However, Morehouse College is highly regarded for connecting its students to fortune 100 & 500 companies and creating a pipeline for companies who are looking for a few talented black men. The same exists for sciences & humanities departments which have produced countless doctors and attorneys, all coming from "Mother Morehouse" as it is affectionally known by some.

What do you say to people who believe HBCUs are not as good as Predominantly White Institutions (PWI)?

It's all perspective and based on what experience and career each individual is looking to have. It also depends on the cost as well. Morehouse definitely didn't address debt to income ratio after college, and how important that factors into buying a home, especially when salaries of corporate or engineering students pale in comparison to those of teachers and social workers. Many from Morehouse will say that's trivial, but it's usually from those who have had some level of privilege, or support from their families at some point. Just depends on the individual, but they are definitely needed and always will be.


Tell us what you wish everyone in the world knew about the HBCU experience.

How amazing it is to be young, gifted, and black on a college campus is probably one of the most amazing feelings an African American person or one of color can have and will be an experience as transformative & memorable as marriage, death, births, birthdays, retirements, etc.

Tell us about your most memorable HBCU experiences. (Yes we in yo business, tell us about all of 'em!)

The memory that always sticks out to me is the day I saw a man sitting in the cafeteria (Chivers Lane Cafe is a story in itself and how I lost 20lbs my freshman year) with his infant son. That scene visually has been branded in my brain ever since that day. The beauty, perseverance, and innocence of it all, still have no words to truly describe that.

Was it like Hillman on "A Different World"?

Ummm, not really. It was great, but it wasn't Hillman, it was Morehouse, something unique.

As any alumni will tell you, HBCUs are nurturing environments. What person(s) during your HBCU experience deserves some flowers and recognition?

My Morehouse professor and her husband took me into their home when I was homeless and trying to finish Morehouse. Dealing with an illness that caused me to gain 130 pounds in 11 months was overwhelming, but she saw me, and THAT, is something I will never forget. Obviously, there's plenty more to that part of the story but I'll leave it there.

How are you using what you learned from them in your everyday life?

Just last month a guy who I had not seen since we graduated high school stayed with me for 6 months' rent free after being incarcerated for 2 years. Paying it forward is the name of the game in this camp. And that is something you learn at an HBCU.

Thank you for showing us Your Yard and telling us Your Experience. Before you go, tell us, what do you imagine for the future of HBCUs?

Advancement in STEM education, better education to students about the cost of college and how it factors into wealth building which includes starting your own business, purchasing homes, retirement, etc., and how that looks with giving back to the institution as alumni. Lastly, doing a better job of being intentional when it comes to character building. Wealth is great but does any feeling resonate inside you towards the story of an 80-year-old woman being pushed out of her house either through dilapidation, gentrification, or both? Does that move you in any way, and if it does, what are you going to do about it?

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