[[CMP::TITLE]]: Robert Morris University

The first, but not the last

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ten years ago, when I was vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives at the University of Oklahoma, I met a man named Bill Keyes, the founder and president of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship in Washington, D.C. To steal a line from Jerry Maguire, he had me at “hello.”

It’s not just that the I4RC, as it’s known, attracts top students from the best universities in the United States. It’s not just that its alumni have gone on to become Rhodes scholars, earned Ph.D.s, and graduated from Harvard Law School. It’s not just the premium that the Institute places on public service, as its very name implies.

What stands out above all else is that the I4RC treats African American men as assets to our nation, and not liabilities. That’s how Michael Quigley, assistant professor of organizational leadership at RMU, describes the spirit that animates the university’s Uzuri Think Tank and the Black Male Leadership Development Institute. It’s why, before I even had time to unpack the boxes in my new office, I urged my colleagues at RMU to seek out students to apply to be a scholar at the Institute’s highly selective Washington Program.

Imagine my joy when one such student, Nolen Keeys, was accepted for the Institute’s Class of 2017. You can read here about Nolen and the high regard in which he is held by his mentors at RMU, but let me just echo a couple points: Only 12 Institute scholars are selected each year. Nolen will be joining in the Class of 2017 students from Princeton, the University of Chicago, USC, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In other words, some of the best private and public universities in the nation. 

And why shouldn’t a student from Robert Morris be among them? RMU students should have access to the same pathways and opportunities for excellence as students at any other institution in this nation. The model of servant-leadership that the I4RC extols is part of our DNA at Robert Morris, exemplified by the Student Engagement Transcript and all the programming that supports it.

Nolen is the fourth student I’ve sent to the I4RC during my career in higher education. He’s the first from RMU. If I have anything to say about it, he won’t be the last.