By Deborah Bailey, AFRO D.C. Editor
Fresh from celebrating her fifth anniversary as President of Bowie State University in July 2022, Aminta H. Breaux is racing to excellence with her leadership team.
At the top of Breaux’s list is preparing the campus for the start of Fall semester 2022. She hopes this year is the campus’ first completely in-person school year since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Breaux’s characteristic high-energy yet approachable leadership style has taken Bowie State University’s campus from “the best kept secret in Maryland” when she arrived in the Summer 2017, to a thriving HBCU powerhouse with a growing footprint across Maryland, the nation and world.
Introducing the world to the Bowie Bold brand
“Bowie State University, the first HBCU in Maryland has this amazing and remarkable legacy,” Breaux said regarding her survey of the campus. When she arrived, Breaux found a beautiful campus, caring campus community and a spirit of excellence.
“We were known when I arrived here as the best kept secret and I said why are we doing that?”
“If there was anything that I wanted to change – it was simply to let everybody know about this incredible history, the wonderful excellence I see on this campus among our students, our faculty and our staff.
Breaux said, “there were just so many positive things to tell others about. When I first got here, I would just go to meetings and tell people ‘did you know that Bowie State was the first HBCU in Maryland? And that would start the conversation,” she said.
The campus has taken notice of Breaux’s capacity to spread the good news about Bowie State University’s assets.
“She’s focused on making sure the achievements of the students, faculty and the University and staff were visible,” said Ayanna Lynch, assistant professor of Clinical Psychology and immediate past chair of Bowie State University’s faculty senate.
“We have a new level of recognition in the region and state that we’ve never experienced before and that is to her credit,” Lynch continued.
Breaux’s ability to spread the good news about Bowie State University to new and existing stakeholders has yielded tangible results:
- Bowie State University’s undergraduate enrollment has grown close to 4 percent. University enrollment increase persisted even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The university’s endowment expanded from seven million to $36 million since Breaux’s arrival including Bowie’s selection as one of the recipients of a $25 million gift from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
- The BSU Living Learning Entrepreneurship Center opened housing up to 500 students, and campus hub for student introduction to entrepreneurship.
- Groundbreaking on $129 million Martin Luther King Jr. Communications Arts & Humanities Building scheduled to open in fall 2024.
- Growth in competitive academic programs including Online B.S. degree and MS Degree Programs in computer science, computer technology, criminal justice, management information systems and culturally responsive teacher leadership. The university is offering a doctoral program in educational leadership (Ed.D.) and new in-person academic programs in cyber operations engineering, data science, applied biotechnology, philosophy, political science and economics and the internet of things.
- Host University of the CIAA Basketball Tournament.
As the first day of the fall semester approaches on Aug. 29, Beaux reflects on what she has learned about leadership, her campus and students during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
Collaborative leadership through the pandemic
“I didn’t get the course on how to lead a campus through a pandemic– no one did,” Breaux said. “But I am a collaborative leader anyway, so I led by collaborating with my team, with faculty, with students.”
“I formed a task force with faculty, staff and students to hear their voices. We had town halls sometimes several times a month,” Breaux said. “Communication was key. I didn’t have all the answers. No one did,” she said.
Breaux said that the transformation to a virtual campus in spring 2020 was a team effort. We transformed this campus to a virtual campus in just a matter of days. The way we got through it was to collaborate. He helped one another. Everyone stepped up,” she said.
“We just have this family atmosphere at Bowie State,” Breaux continued. “Our faculty and staff were going to make sure our students got their education and nothing was going to stop us,” Breaux said.
Students at the center
Dejane’ Watts was one student who finished her last two years at Bowie State during the pandemic. Watts said she couldn’t be more proud of how Breaux reached out and connected with students, even virtually during what was one of the most challenging times in their own lives.
“I am just so proud of her,” said Watts, a strategic communication major and December 2021 graduate. “To see her as a Black woman and watch her take charge of this campus is so inspiring. Her energy and positivity was so motivating especially during the pandemic,” said the young alumnae who hails from Bowie, Md.
Watts recently moved to Atlanta starting a career in communications within Atlanta’s burgeoning entertainment industry.
And Breaux, whose love for students is at the core of her 35-year higher education career, returns the admiration and energy expressed by Watts and many of her students.
“What I’ve learned is how creative and innovative and driven our students are to achieve,” Breaux said.
“Students have changed. We have to pick up the pace to stay at the forefront in leading and supporting our students where they are today. I get such joy and excitement from talking with our students about their plans for the future,” Breaux continued.
“In the future, I hope to continue to scale the resources and create the platforms we’ll need to help a new generation of students attain their goals and realize their dreams,” Breaux concluded.
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