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HBCU book event header

Join us for an enriching forum on establishing and strengthening partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This gathering will also include a talk about a new book, HBCU: The Power of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, co-authored by Drs. Marybeth Gasman and Levon T. Esters

Who should attend?

  • Penn State faculty and staff seeking to discover ways to build and improve partnerships with HBCUs
  • Community members seeking to learn about the importance of HBCUs

At this forum, attendees can:

  • discover how HBCUs play a critical role in U.S. higher education by providing high-quality educational experiences for underrepresented students
  • realize the untapped value that HBCUs and HBCU faculty bring to research, education, and outreach collaborations
  • learn from Penn State faculty who have developed and successfully maintain partnerships with faculty from HBCUs and other Minority-Serving Institutions
  • hear authentic perspectives from HBCU alumni

Registration is now closed.


The Power of Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Establishing and Strengthening Partnerships
Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center, Deans Hall
February 26, 2024
Lodging Information


9:00–10:00 a.m.

Developing, Sustaining, and Strengthening Partnerships with HBCUs
10:00–11:15 a.m.

Faculty-focused discussion on developing, sustaining, and strengthening partnerships with HBCUs

Presentation by Dr. Marybeth Gasman

Q&A session with Dr. Gasman and Dr. Levon T. Esters

Lunch (Provided)
11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

The Power of Historically Black Colleges and Universities Book Q&A
1:30–2:20 p.m.

Dr. Gasman and Dr. Esters

Facilitated by Dr. Stephanie Danette Preston, Associate Dean for Graduate Educational Equity Programs and Chief Diversity Officer, The Graduate School at Penn State

  • Panel discussion with HBCU alumni
  • Book Q&A with Marybeth Gasman and Levon Esters

Panel discussion: “Bridging the Gap: Student and Faculty Perspectives on HBCU to Predominantly White Institution (PWI) Transitions”

2:20–3:00 p.m.

  • Brittani Bedford, Doctoral Candidate in Food Science, Penn State, and North Carolina A&T University Graduate
  • Dr. Gregory Jenkins, Professor of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Penn State, and Lincoln University Graduate
  • Keia Jones, Doctoral Candidate in Rural Sociology, Penn State, and Virginia State University Graduate
  • Dr. Dawn Witherspoon, Professor of Psychology and McCourtney Family Early Career Professor in Psychology, Penn State, and North Carolina Central University Graduate

Facilitated by Dr. Preston

Reception and Book Signing
3:00–4:00 p.m.
Light refreshments provided


Levon T. Esters Dr. Levon T. Esters
Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School
Penn State

Dr. Levon T. Esters, a two-time HBCU alumnus, began his tenure as vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School at Penn State on May 1, 2023.

Dr. Esters is a nationally recognized scholar on mentoring, equity, and diversity in STEM-based agricultural and life sciences disciplines. He has forged partnerships and collaborations with nearly all the 1890 historically black land-grant institutions throughout his career. His research focuses on the mentoring needs of Black graduate students, the STEM career development of students attending HBCUs, and educational and professional mobility and development of graduate students. Dr. Esters is also an adjunct professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and a senior research associate at the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Prior to joining Penn State, he served as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and faculty affairs for Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Esters earned a B.S. in Agricultural Business from Florida A&M University, an M.S. in Agricultural Education from North Carolina A&T State University, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Extension Education from Penn State.

Marybeth Gasman Dr. Marybeth Gasman
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education
Rutgers University

Dr. Marybeth Gasman is the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education, a Distinguished Professor, and the Associate Dean for Research in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity & Justice and the Executive Director of the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers, Dr. Gasman was the Judy & Howard Berkowitz Endowed Professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author or editor of 33 books, including Educating a Diverse Nation (Harvard University Press, 2015 with Clif Conrad), Envisioning Black Colleges (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), Making Black Scientists (Harvard University Press, 2019 with Thai-Huy Nguyen), and Doing the Right Thing: How to End Systemic Racism in Faculty Hiring (Princeton University, 2022).

Dr. Gasman has written over 300 peer-reviewed articles, scholarly essays, and book chapters. She has penned over 650 opinion articles for the nation’s newspapers and magazines and is ranked by Education Week as one of the 30 most influential education scholars in the nation. Marybeth has raised over $24 million in grant funding to support her research and that of her students, mentees, and MSI partners. She has served on the board of trustees of the College Board as well as historically Black colleges – Paul Quinn College, Morris Brown College, and St. Augustine College. She considers her proudest accomplishment to be receiving the University of Pennsylvania’s Provost Award for Distinguished Ph.D. Teaching and Mentoring, serving as the dissertation chair for over 80 doctoral students since 2000. Dr. Gasman loves to write, and believes balance and harmony are essential to achieving writing goals and aspirations.


Stephanie Preston Dr. Stephanie Danette Preston
Associate Dean, Graduate Educational Equity and Chief Diversity Officer for Graduate Education
The Graduate School at Penn State

Dr. Stephanie Danette Preston is the Associate Dean for Graduate Educational Equity. Previously, Dr. Preston was the Senior Director of the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs where she spearheaded the Graduate School's efforts to increase diversity within the graduate student community across the University.

Dr. Preston has administered, coordinated and evaluated comprehensive recruitment programs and retention activities which enhance the professional development of underrepresented graduate students. As Senior Director, and in her current role, Dr. Preston leads the Big Ten Academic Alliance Summer Research Opportunities Program and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. She has represented Penn State as a participant in programs such as the National Science Foundation's Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, designed to broaden participation in science technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Additionally, she has coordinated the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Scholars Program.

Dr. Preston completed her Ph.D. at Penn State in Curriculum and Instruction focusing on science education. Her graduate research focused on the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities and women in STEM fields. She received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction (science education) from Xavier University of Louisiana. Dr. Preston taught high school biology, chemistry, and human anatomy, and physiology in New Orleans.



Gregory Jenkins Dr. Gregory Jenkins
Penn State Professor of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, and Lincoln University Graduate

Dr. Gregory Jenkins is a Philadelphia native and a professor in the Department of Meteorology & Atmospheric Science, with affiliate appointments in African Studies and Geography at Penn State University, and Director of the Alliance for Education, Sciences, Engineering and Design with Africa (AESEDA) in the College of Earth & Mineral Sciences (EMS). He is the founder and current mentor for the EnvironMentors Chapter at Penn State, a program dedicated to encouraging STEM careers in high school students of color.  Previously, he was the Director of HUPAS and Chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Howard University.  He is a graduate of Lincoln University with a BS in Physics and the University of Michigan with a MS and PhD in Atmospheric Sciences. He has published in numerous journals and is the recipient of the 2007 Alumni Merit Award from department of  Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. He is member of the HistoryMakers, was named a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, and a recipient of the Charles E. Anderson Award. His areas of research are in weather, climate, and air quality of West Africa. 

Dawn Witherspoon Dr. Dawn Witherspoon
Penn State Professor of Psychology and McCourtney Family Early Career Professor in Psychology, and North Carolina Central University Graduate

Dawn P. Witherspoon, Ph.D. is the McCourtney Family Early Career Professor in Psychology and Professor of Psychology at the Pennsylvania State University. Witherspoon is also the Director of PACT, Parents And Children Together, a community-university partnership to enhance the lives of diverse children, youth, and families in the greater Harrisburg, PA region. Dr. Witherspoon completed a NIH post-doctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s. Dr. Witherspoon received her doctorate in Community Psychology from New York University. Dr. Witherspoon completed her undergraduate education at North Carolina Central University with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology; she also completed a Master of Arts in Psychology at NCCU. Dr. Witherspoon is a proud Eagle who soars high.

Her research focuses on the ways in which urban and rural families and youth are influenced by the contexts in which they are embedded, particularly focusing on how neighborhood, family, and race/ethnicity-related factors affect adolescents’ academic, psycho-social, and behavioral well-being. Witherspoon is the past chairperson of the Ethnic and Racial Issues (ERI) committee of the Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD) and outgoing co-chairperson of the Publications Committee of SRCD. Dr. Witherspoon also is the co-chair for the Data Tracking Initiative (DTI) subcommittee of the SRCD Publications Committee. Dr. Witherspoon was also co-chair of the 2022 biennial meeting of Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA). Witherspoon’s work has been supported by NIH and NSF and published in numerous outlets including Child Development, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, and American Journal of Community Psychology. Dr. Witherspoon is on the editorial board of Developmental Psychology, Identity, and the American Psychologist and serves as an Associate Editor for Journal of Research on Adolescence.


Brittani BedfordBrittani Bedford
Doctoral candidate in Food Science, Penn State, and North Carolina A&T University Graduate

 Brittani Bedford is pursuing a Ph.D. in Food Science with a minor in Engineering, Law, and Policy. She was the 2021-2022 President of the Black Graduate Student Association and assisted in developing the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee of the Department of Food Science. Brittani is a 4th year PhD student and was a 2022-2023 FSIS ORISE Food Safety Fellow. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutritional Sciences with a Food Science concentration and a Waste Management certificate from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.



Keia Jones Keia Jones
Doctoral Candidate in Rural Sociology, Penn State, and Virginia State University Graduate

Keia Jones is a third year Doctoral Candidate pursuing a dual degree in Rural Sociology and International Agriculture and Development in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Keia holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, an International Master’s of Rural Development (IMRD) from Ghent University, and a dual Bachelor’s in Economics, and Agriculture from The Virginia State University. Keia seeks specialization in sustainability, through transdisciplinary research, entrepreneurship, water quality, and socioeconomic dimensions of environmental justice.



If you are traveling from out of town, guest room accommodations with reduced rates are available at the below locations for the nights of February 25 and February 26.

The Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center

  • Hotel Block Code: HBCU24R
  • Cost per night: $129
  • Deadline to book discounted rate: February 8

Fairfield Inn & Suites, State College

  • Hotel Block Code: HBCS (call the front desk directly at 814-238-3871)
  • Cost per night: $129
  • Deadline to book discounted rate: February 11

Marriott SpringHill Suites, State College

  • Hotel Block Code: HBCU
  • Cost per night: $159
  • Deadline to book discounted rate: February 11
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