Even though Mickey Burnim will soon relinquish his position as president of Bowie State University (BSU), his passion and work for Black higher education will not cease. He said he will still keep fighting for HBCUs and continue educating African Americans and others who seek their campuses.
Burnim will retire at the end of the academic year. A new president has yet to be named. He told the AFRO he is proud of what he has accomplished at the Prince George’s County-based institution. “God has blessed Bowie State University tremendously during my tenure,” he said. “We have enjoyed reasonable funding from the state such that we have constructed two greatly needed academic buildings, made numerous improvements to the campus infrastructure, and we [were] able to avoid any personnel layoffs during the Great Recession. During this time, our enrollment has maintained a positive growth trend and we have dramatically increased the yearly number of graduates.
“Though the work of my leadership team, faculty, staff, students and alumni, we have significantly enhanced the university’s reputation and visibility throughout the region and nation, established and maintained strong fiscal operations, and established a solid institutional advancement base for private fundraising. I believe that by all objective criteria, Bowie State University is a much stronger institution and is well-positioned for continued growth and success.”
Burnim said he is working on creating an endowed chair for the university and expand its international program and complete a cybersecurity joint program with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
He is the ninth president of BSU, with his start in September 2006. He has also held high-level jobs at institutions such as Elizabeth City State University and North Carolina Central University.
BSU is the oldest Black higher education institution in Maryland and one of the 10 oldest in the country. It has 5,600 students and offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
Burnim, like many Black college and university presidents, understands that Black education is in a defining moment or even in a crisis. “A good education is the surest passport to economic productivity, political efficacy, and social viability,” he said. “Diminishing access and poorer educational outcomes, at all levels, are leading to increasing gaps between the well-being of Black Americans and that of White Americans. In other words, fewer opportunities for Black Americans to get a quality education at primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels are causing them to learn less, graduate in lower percentages and, as a result, have relatively poorer job opportunities, lower incomes, and experience greater social distress.”
Many African Americans are anxious about the new presidential administration in Washington and while Burnim understands that, he said seemingly unfriendly presidents are nothing new for Black institutions. “HBCUs have always faced seemingly insurmountable odds; most have persisted and some have even thrived,” Burnim said. “Those that have thrived have done so by operating within a sound and supportive governance structure, assuring the integrity of fiscal operations and attending to the relevance and quality of their degree programs. That is the basic formula for success no matter what administration is in Washington. My advice is to pursue it while also working to influence the political process to our advantage.”