By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan University President Matt vandenBerg today signed a sister school memorandum of understanding with South Carolina-based Claflin University, one of the nation’s leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The agreement is one of the most comprehensive sister school collaborations in higher education between an HBCU and a Predominantly White Institution (PWI).

“It is truly extraordinary that our two venerable institutions have come together and pledged to change the world for our students, faculty, staff, and respective communities,” said vandenBerg, Ed.D. “Our pathbreaking agreement creates a foundation for innovative and life-changing work that will transform the educational experiences we provide, enrich the work of our faculty and staff, and unlock untold potential to solve vexing societal challenges. We are immensely grateful to our partners at Claflin for their shared commitment and vision.”

Claflin President Dwaun Warmack, in town to attend vandenBerg’s April 19 inauguration ceremony, signed the sister school agreement on behalf of the Orangeburg, South Carolina-based university, that state’s oldest HBCU. Founded in 1869, Claflin is a private, residential, liberal arts university with approximately 2,000 students from all regions of the United States and 12 countries.

“This expansive partnership will enhance academic, research, and global studies opportunities for students and faculty at these two exceptional liberal arts universities,” Warmack said. “As sister institutions, we have several commonalities, most notably our affiliation with The United Methodist Church, our commitment to academic excellence, and our advocacy of diversity and inclusion. We also embrace integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) throughout our liberal arts curriculum to prepare students for career opportunities in the 21st-century global economy. We are immensely excited to launch this partnership, which will provide mutual benefits for Claflin University and Ohio Wesleyan University.”

Specifics of the new agreement are under development but will include the formation of an advisory board with representatives – including students, faculty, and staff – helping to guide the work. Building an alliance through the lens of equity, justice, and community service, the advisory board will explore collaborations spanning multiple areas, including:

  • Faculty exchange opportunities.
  • Student exchange opportunities, including study-away programs and OWU Connection experiences.
  • Shared international collaborations in Africa and elsewhere.
  • Joint research projects.
  • Joint initiatives in entrepreneurship and service, including collaborations that empower students to create positive social change and promote economic development in their local communities.
  • Professional development, including opportunities for faculty to collaborate to identify and implement best practices in teaching and learning.

Marybeth Gasman, founder of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at Rutgers University, said many colleges and universities are interested in creating sister school agreements, but the Ohio Wesleyan-Claflin agreement is one of the most comprehensive she has seen.

“What I really like about this agreement is that it is equitable, thoughtful, and it is forward-thinking,” said Gasman, Ph.D., who also serves as the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education and a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers. “Presidents vandenBerg and Warmack are working on a global scale to solve problems in innovative and research-focused ways together. What could be better for either campus? This is exciting, and I hope other ‘sister’ school agreements will pop up all over the country.”

As part of the new agreement, effective immediately, both Ohio Wesleyan and Claflin also committed to building their strong sister school relationship through a commitment to continuous innovation and exploration.

In addition to this sister school agreement, Ohio Wesleyan also participates in multiple consortia including the Annapolis Group of Liberal Arts Colleges, the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and the Five Colleges of Ohio.

Learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion at Ohio Wesleyan at owu.edu/dei and more about Claflin and its mission and vision at www.claflin.edu.

Ohio Wesleyan University President Matt vandenBerg (left) and Claflin University President Dwaun Warmack show off a sister school agreement signed April 18 at OWU. It is one of the most comprehensive agreements in higher education signed between a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). (Photo by James DeCamp)


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