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‘The Black Experience in Higher Education’: CU Black History Month Food for Thought

From left, Khalil Baker, Dr. LaWanda Hazard, Milan Bailey, Dr. Adarrell Owsley and Dr. DeNika VanCleave participate in a Food for Thought panel discussion titled, “The Black Experience in Higher Education.” (Campbellsville University Photo by Daisy Rodriguez)

By Scarlett Birge, student news writer, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – “Working at the college level shows me that, being a Black woman, we can do great things,” Dr. LaWanda Hazard said at a “The Black Experience in Higher Education” event at Campbellsville University.

Hazard, a 2001 Campbellsville University Bachelor of Social Work graduate, principal of Jefferson County Schools and adjunct professor for the University of the Cumberlands, was one of three others on a Food for Thought panel discussion as part of Campbellsville University’s events honoring Black History Month.

Other speakers were: Dr. DeNika VanCleave, a 2015 Bachelor of Social Work graduate and a 2017 Master of Social Work graduate, both earned from Campbellsville University, and who is an assistant professor of social work at Campbellsville University; Dr. Adarrell Owsley, assistant professor of education, also at Campbellsville University; and Khalil Baker, a senior, who is a resident director at Campbellsville University, majoring in English.

Milan Bailey, a senior of Louisville, Ky., and president of the Black Student Association (BSA), was moderator of the discussion Feb. 28.

Hazard, who attended Western Kentucky and Campbellsville University and earned her doctorate from the University of the Cumberlands, said her experience with college had a rocky start. Having dropped out and been kicked out of college and being a single parent in and out of jobs, Hazard said her final push to seriously attend college came from her heartfelt desire to help other people and a calling she felt from God.

Hazard said she works to eliminate all barriers that prevent her students from succeeding because her life’s desire is to help people achieve their potential.

Hazard said when she was in college, even though several people, including her academic advisor, doubted her, she would not accept failure as an option.

“The journey has not been easy. Sometimes you have to begin with the end in mind,” Hazard said. “God revealed that to me.”

VanCleave, who received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in social work from Campbellsville University and her doctorate from Capella University, said while she was unsure of what field she wanted to go into at first, she had wanted to attend college for as long as she could remember.

“I did not expect to be where I am today,” VanCleave said. “God led me in this direction.”

Baker said getting a scholarship offer for football during his senior year of high school made him realize his desire to get a college education.

“It was a sign from God to further my education,” Baker said.

Owsley, who received his doctorate from Eastern Kentucky University, master’s degree from Indiana-Wesleyan and bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, said by the time he was a junior in high school he knew he wanted to get as much education as possible. Owsley said the hard manual labor of his high school summer job hanging tobacco helped him realize he desired more for himself.

Owsley said he felt inspired by a Black journalist he saw on CNN to pursue his undergraduate education in journalism. He said having that representation was important, and he wanted to have a similar impact on his Black students.

“Working in a university setting is everything to me,” Owsley said. “It’s enabled me to have an impact on Black students because I understand exactly the challenges our students have to overcome.”

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that has enrolled up to 12,000 students yearly. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.