The University of the District of Columbia is recognized federally as an urban land-grant institution and a HBCU. In May 2015, Ronald Mason was hired for the presidency by the board of trustees of UDC and has since worked to upgrade the school. He told the AFRO of his many accomplishments since being selected as its administrative leader.

Ronald Mason, president of UDC, is using the school’s Vision 2020 plan to improve and add additional academic and facility services for students and staff. (Courtesy Photo)
Ronald Mason, president of UDC, is using the school’s Vision 2020 plan to improve and add additional academic and facility services for students and staff. (Courtesy Photo)

“We have received accreditation with commendations and we have been removed from federal financial aid probation,” Mason said. “We have an enrollment of 48 District of Columbia public school students including high performers such as 12 valedictorians and salutatorians.”

UDC currently offers 75 undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs through its College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, College of Arts and Sciences; School of Business and Public Administration; School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Community College and the David A. Clarke School of Law. The university has 4,604 students according to its enrollment data, with the community college at 1,899 and the law school at 286.

The university was founded in 1851 as a school for Black girls and has evolved through mergers and acquisitions for over a century.

In 1977, three institutions, The D.C. Teachers College, Washington Technical Institute, and Federal City College, were merged to become UDC. The university is in the shadow of more well-known and privately-financed universities such as Howard University, Georgetown University, and George Washington University, but Mason said that UDC has its assets too.

“The University of the District of Columbia Community College is ranked best community college in the DMV [District, Maryland and Virginia] by Wallet Hub,” Mason said of the ranking by the personal finance web site. “The university is ranked the No. 10 HBCU by the Wall Street Journal.

Such recognition is the reason Mason was selected as UDC’s leader. Before he came to Washington, Mason was the seventh president of the Southern University and A&M College system, where he served a five-year term and was president of Jackson State University. Mason also held top administrative positions with Tulane and Xavier Universities, both in New Orleans. He holds a bachelor’s degree and juris doctorate from Columbia University in New York City.

“Mr. Mason has proven himself as a leader in the higher education community in many parts of the country,” UDC Board chair Elaine A. Crider said. “He has bought enhanced community relationships, responsible governance, and a strong students-first focus to his past roles and will do the same for the University of the District of Columbia as we continue to implement the goals and objectives of our “Vision 2020″ strategic plan.”

The “Vision 2020” plan, adopted by the board on Feb. 18, 2014, lays out specific plans for raising money, recruiting students and faculty, improving and expanding the curriculum, and building the university’s infrastructure. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has expressed confidence in Mason, saying he is “a leader with a wealth of experience.”

Mason has simple but concrete academic and infrastructure goals for UDC. “Our job is to enable every student who walks through our doors, whether enrolled in the workforce certification, associates, bachelor, graduate or professional degree, to reach their highest level of human potential,” the president said.

Mason expects to open up a student apartment facility within two years, a first for what is considered a commuter school. Plus, he said, there are plans to expand the Backus campus in Northeast Washington and to completely renovate the Van Ness campus, in Northwest, that houses the administrative offices and undergraduate and graduate facilities.

“It is always an honor to be recognized,” he said of the recognition from the AFRO’s 2017 Black History Month celebration on Feb. 23. “To be recognized by your family is especially gratifying because family knows you better than anyone.”