SIU, Harris-Stowe sign exchange pact

By Karsten Burgstahler


A new recruiting agreement could bring some fresh faces to campus in the coming semesters.

The university officially signed a memorandum of understanding March 21 with Harris-Stowe State University, a historically black university, or HBCU, located in St. Louis to benefit programs at both universities. John Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and graduate dean, said one of the pact’s main goals is to help recruit potential graduate students from Harris-Stowe, as the Missouri university does not have a graduate program.


According to an April 19 university news release, the university will assist potential graduate students with the application process and will offer Harris-Stowe students the graduate school in-state tuition rate.

Koropchak said he and a group of representatives including Susan Ford, associate dean and director of the graduate school; and Linda Mccabe Smith, associate chancellor for institutional diversity; met with Harris-Stowe staff and designed the agreement. The committee began to build the pact after several meetings, he said.

“I drafted and negotiated the details of the memorandum of agreement that we have, working directly with the provost over at Harris-Stowe,” he said.

Koropchak said the memorandum process began with Sapphire Cureg, Center for Inclusive Excellence director, who worked with Harris-Stowe President Albert Walker while the two worked at Bluefield State College in Bluefield, W. Va. Chancellor Rita Cheng met with Walker at a professional conference, he said.

As the schools continued correspondence, Koropchak said the university invited a group of Harris-Stowe students the same day the memorandum was signed to visit the campus and see graduate school programs. While several students were interested in the university’s masters of business administration program, the touring students had a variety of interests.

“(The programs students visited were) pretty much across the spectrum,” he said. “There were students interested in the College of Education, there were some students interested in history, that Ph.D. program, physiology, plant biology.”

The university also conducted a workshop during the visit to explain the application process, he said. Koropchak said he has viewed submitted applications for 6 to 10 potential graduate students.


However, while the university invited Harris-Stowe students to visit campus, Ford said the memorandum also includes an actual SIU presence on HSSU’s campus.

“In the future, we plan to send one of our admissions officers to Harris-Stowe each fall to do a workshop on campus,” he said.

Ford said admissions will make sure it makes a targeted visit to Harris-Stowe during the recruitment process.

Several officials, including a Harris-Stowe staff member, said both universities’ diverse range of students is a positive in the process.

Martinique Free, a graduate student in health education from Orangeburg, S.C., was also a part of the Harris-Stowe committee. Free said she is able to use her experience to make a top-quality pact as a student who attended North Carolina A&T, a predominantly black undergraduate school, and the University of Pittsburgh, a predominantly white graduate school.

“I can look through this collaboration through my lens and think about ‘what were my needs at that time?’” she said. “‘What were my perceived needs versus my actual needs?’”

It was incredibly important for the committee to include student input, Free said.

“Sometimes the administrators, and the faculty, and the staff, they’ve been in their positions on the other side of the fence for so long,” she said. “They forget, sometimes, what it’s like to be a student.”

A Harris-Stowe official said he also is excited about combining SIU and Harris-Stowe’s diverse populations, particularly through the education programs, as the diverse populations of both campuses provide a good array of training.

Dwayne Smith, HSSU vice president for academic affairs, said faculty exchange, a process typically involving schools in foreign countries through which teachers from different universities hold classes at a sister university, is an important part of the pact.

“Harris-Stowe is a primarily, historically black institution with a high concentration of students of color, located in the urban region,” he said. “Carbondale (is a) predominately white institution that is primarily located in a rural region. We felt that we could possibly get some of the same dynamics, the same outcomes that typical faculty exchange programs have.”

Smith said the committee saw the education program as an opportunity to allow teachers to practice their profession in both rural and urban environments. The pact benefits Harris-Stowe as undergraduate students begin to vie for competitive graduate programs, he said. However, both universities can benefit from campus diversity, Smith said.

“You have a diverse population who is provided access to higher education,” he said. “This is one way, through this graduate partnership, that we can provide access to individuals who seek a graduate school degree.”

According to Harris-Stowe’s website, HSSU has roots in two schools: Harris Teachers College, which served white students as early as 1906, and Stowe Teachers College, which served black students and began operations in 1890. The schools were integrated in 1954 but retained the name Harris Teachers College.

In 1979, Harris-Stowe College became a member of the State system of higher education, and 2005 the college officially reached University status, according to HSSU’s website.