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  • My Degree Is Black

Kendra Waters | Howard | '03 & '06

Welcome to the MDIB Yard Kendra Waters!

Reppin': Howard University

Grad: 2003 & 2006

Major: Radio Production, Curriculum & Instruction./ Elementary Education

Occupation: Director of Program Operations

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.

My first experience with Howard University was as a HS Senior in Fall of 1999 when I attended Homecoming to visit a childhood friend that was a freshman at the time. I had already received acceptance letters to other HBCUs as well as PWIs, so I wasn't expecting this to be anything more than a trip to hang out with my friends. My perspective soon changed as soon as I arrived in the city. Imagine the joy that consumed me as soon as I stepped off of the Metro to begin walking on Georgia Avenue and then finally onto the yard. It was in that moment that I knew that I had to attend this school. I hadn't applied nor did I have any details about the application process, but I was sold that Howard University was my school. My homecoming experience did it for me because seeing all of those beautiful brown faces all in one place, all at one time was absolutely breathtaking. Upon our return home, I immediately told my parents that I wanted to attend Howard and I went to speak with my guidance counselor my first day back to school to receive assistance with my application. I was blessed to receive my acceptance letter in Spring of 2000 a few months before my HS graduation. My Howard experience is truly one that I will always hold dear, and I am grateful to have attended such a highly esteemed university. There are not many places that I can go without meeting or connecting with someone that went to Howard, knows someone that went to Howard, or had aspirations to attend Howard.

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

Every day I was reminded of the importance of my responsibility to maximize every opportunity given to me to not only surround myself with productive people but also to be a productive person striving each day to be the best I can be. My experience at my HBCU forced me to level up in all things because I was no longer one of few people like I was in HS, I was now one of many scholars and changemakers from across the country. I had no other choice but to leave my mark and remain connected to my culture. My parents kept me engaged in, exposed to, and a part of Black culture before I went to Howard but once I became a student at my HBCU, my understanding of Black Culture was amplified because I had no choice but to immerse myself in the culture because everywhere I turned the culture embraced me.

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?

Howard University "The Mecca" was founded on March 2, 1867. Current enrollment is approximately 11,000 students including undergraduate and graduate students. Howard University offers more than 120 areas of study within 13 schools and colleges and ranks among the highest producers of the nation's Black professionals in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, nursing, architecture, religion, law, music, social work, and education.

We have several notable alumni including but not limited to Chadwick Boseman, Taraji P. Henson, Antoine Bethea, Kamala Harris, Thurgood Marshall, Anthony Anderson, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Simone Missick, Carl Anthony Payne II, Donny Hathaway.

The Alpha (founding) Chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha (1908), Omega Psi Phi (1911), Delta Sigma Theta (1913), Phi Beta Sigma (1914), and Zeta Phi Beta (1920) were established on Howard's campus. Additionally, the National Pan-Hellenic Council was organized on May 10, 1930, at Howard University

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

Anyone who thinks this is able to express their opinion but all I can say is I can't make you understand something that you just have to experience. It's an HBCU thing that unfortunately they could never understand.


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

The HBCU experience is LIVE and being in the midst of campus life makes you feel alive. Your years on campus will be electrifying. The professors are encouraging and challenging. The coursework pushes you to want to learn more and is crafted with you, as a black student in the world, in mind. Each day is one full of intentionality even when there aren't any special events going on, there is still something happening that cultivates your time on campus if you choose to embrace all that surrounds you. You will grow, you will learn, you will live and you will leave with so much more than what you came with that will impact you for the rest of your life without question.

The HBCU experience is so much more than just going to class and working towards your degree. The HBCU experience is all about learning yourself, for yourself, in a space where you can truly be yourself unapologetically. I wouldn't change my decision to attend an HBCU for any reason. I am a PROUD graduate of Howard University "The Mecca" TWO TIMES. Both of my degrees are BLACK!

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

One of the most memorable moments from my experience at Howard was while I was in my Radio Production class in the School of Communications. I had the pleasure of attending a panel to hear many prestigious actors including Mr. Harry Belafonte. Once the panel ended, I called my father to let him know that one of his favorite actors was in the room. My father actually asked me to get Mr. Belafonte's attention and allow him to speak to him. Well, I was blessed to get close enough to him and shout out "My dad is a huge fan and he wants to say something to you. Will you please say hello to him?" Mr. Belafonte took my phone and actually spoke to my dad. That 30-second exchange made me smile from ear to ear then and years later, it is still so very special to me especially since this year marks 20 years since my father's passing in 2003. Oh, what I would give to have the opportunity to relive that moment again.

Was it like Hillman on "A Different World"?

Yes, in many ways it was like "A Different World" starting with Season 2 but it was a completely unique experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Instead of the Pit, Howard had the Punchout. Instead of Gilbert Hall, we had the Tubman Quadrangle and I lived in Baldwin Hall.

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

Mr. Donald Griggs - My Adoptive Uncle whom I met the first day I stepped on campus with my parents (Worked as a Financial Aid Coordinator)

Ms. June Harris - Administrative Assistant that I grew to love as an Adoptive Big Sister during my tenure as a Graduate Assistant (School of Education)

Ms. Joyce Nichols - My Adoptive Auntie (Worked with HU Campus Police)

Dr. James Jackson - Dean of Curriculum & Instruction (School of Education) and one of my mentors

Dean Dr. Dawn Williams - Academic Dean for the School of Education & My Soror

**I am STILL in touch with each of them today!

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

While at Howard, I learned the importance of advocating for myself and maximizing the power of connections. Each day I strive to do the best I can, where I am, with what I have and I ALWAYS do my best to uplift others. I have been known to be a natural connector since I was a young girl, and it was my HBCU experience that afforded me the opportunity to cultivate that gift by giving me space to create essential connections that have followed me for a lifetime.

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?

The future of HBCUs is bright as long as the HBCU community continues to shine the light on them, invest in them, and have an unwavering belief in their purpose. It is up to us to keep the fire lit and spirits high. As alumni, we must continue to reach back to pour into the institutions that shaped us and encourage the current student body to do its part to keep the legacy alive. We must always challenge the status quo and continue to rise in a way that the world has no choice but to take notice of because the HBCU experience across the board is, simply put, EVERYTHING and then some!

"I'm so glad, I went to Howard U... Singing Glory Hallelujah.... I'm so Glad!"

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