Kentucky State University is among one of four campuses across the nation selected as a site for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Competitiveness Tour.

Kentucky State was one of four campuses in the nation scheduled for a visit by Johnathan M. Holifield, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to discuss HBCU competitiveness and regional innovation. An added bonus was the announcement of one of Kentucky State’s graduating seniors as a 2018 White House HBCU Competitiveness Scholar.

Holifield’s visit garnered an audience of legislative representatives, higher education institution presidents, community members and Kentucky State stakeholders.

Rachelle Johnson, director of government relations at Kentucky State, set the table for discussion, emphasizing the critical shortages in certain sectors of the economy.

“For the first time in recent history,” Johnson said, “there are more work-ready jobs available than job seekers.”

Michael N. Weaver, Student Government Association President and student regent on the Kentucky State University Board of Regents, brought campus greetings. Afterward, Holifield revealed Weaver has been named a 2018 HBCU Competitiveness Scholar. Weaver is one of 63 scholars selected from the nation’s 107 HBCUs.

Scholars were chosen based on their academic achievement, civic and campus engagement and entrepreneurial ethos.

As a result of his selection, Weaver is invited to attend the 2018 National HBCU Week Conference Sept. 16-19 in Washington, D.C. The conference is designed to help the scholars learn and adopt promising practices in areas such as leadership, professional development, national competitiveness and workforce development.

The initiative will also provide outreach and engagement opportunities for scholars, as well as information and resources to disseminate among their fellow students, according to the website. Scholars will participate in regional events, webinars and monthly web chats.

Dr. Aaron Thompson, executive vice president for the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) and former interim president of Kentucky State University, spoke about working with employers.

“We have to come together and figure out how to educate better,” Thompson said. “We have to teach them how to work with and learn from people different than them.”

Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II outlined the vision of the University moving forward and how it ties into workforce development.

“Our campus must adapt to an evolving global and economic environment,” President Brown said. “We want to make sure students are able to earn employment in the areas they pursue a degree.”

Holifield presented after lunch, focusing on aligning institutional missions with America’s competitiveness priorities.

Holifield said Kentucky State University is uniquely equipped to overcome challenges and be a standard bearer in the Commonwealth. He also theorized the benefits that might emerge from the campus launching a small business enterprise (SBE). He asserted the opportunity could drive new revenue to the institution’s education mission.

Kentucky State University Board of Regents Chair Dr. Elaine Farris closed out the event with a challenge.

“Everyone here today can make a difference,” Farris said. “I challenge you all to do what is necessary to close the workforce gap. For peer institutions that are present here today, we ask that you make certain that Kentucky State University has a seat at the table when discussing workforce competitiveness.”