Wilberforce University staying resilient during coronavirus pandemic

By Zack Frink

Wilberforce University leadership is staying resilient despite facing numerous challenges concerning the coronavirus pandemic. The university’s president, Elfred Anthony Pinkard Ed.D., remains optimistic while reflecting on the institution’s present situation and future.

Pinkard — who holds a doctorate degree in administration, planning and social policy — is helping guide Wilberforce into its next phase of maturation going into his third year as president. He and other administrators were in the process of implementing a strategic plan for the university when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

“We are being nimble, as every other institution is and has to be, as we deal with this pandemic,” said Pinkard on Wilberforce’s public health response. The university’s response included not bringing students back on campus for fall classes and athletics.

Despite the drastic changes, he is still sending a message of hope and fortitude to the Wilberforce community during these trying times. “I say to them, 'You are living history. We will get past this, we will get beyond this, this pandemic will not last forever,’” said Pinkard. “I say to my students, 'Don't allow this pandemic to derail you of your academic journey and your academic goals.’”

He said that students have not reported any coronavirus infections and the university would like to make a decision about returning to campus by the middle or the end of November. Whenever it is, Wilberforce will have much to do.

Prior to the pandemic, Pinkard said one of the most important guiding principles to iron out was the university’s unique value proposition. “Wilberforce is interested in becoming — will become, has intention of becoming — a premier liberal arts institution, with a college-to-career and entrepreneurial intention for students of high potential,” he said.

Outside of that, Wilberforce is developing and implementing the seven pillars of its strategic plan:

Operational efficiency

Fiscal responsibility

Enrollment and retention

Academic excellence

Student engagement

Brand advancement

Culture of excellence

Pinkard also said the university is looking at expanding its sports offerings and that athletics are an important part of a student's experience.

“I would like to see Wilberforce as a solidly recognized, high-performing liberal arts institution,” he said about Wilberforce's aspirations in five years. No matter what happens in the next five years, Pinkard believes the university will be an educational anchor for the long run.

“While those plans that I've outlined are very ambitious, they are quite doable,” he said. “We've been around 164 years and we plan to be around another 164 years.“ Wilberforce University will manage through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

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