Dr. John Wilson Talks About Importance of Empowering Students to Work Together During the Annual E. Lorraine Baugh Visiting Faculty Lecture

Today’s colleges and universities are setting a high bar for career preparation and educational quality, but are they empowering students to work together for a better future? Dr. John Wilson, the keynote speaker at this year’s E. Lorraine Baugh Visiting Faculty Lecture, dove into this topic and more.

“At Morehouse, at Howard, at Lincoln, and at all other historically black colleges and universities, students are getting a dual competency,” Wilson said during the on-campus and virtual hybrid talk to audience of 100 attendees inside 1 CW on Monday, February 26.  “They’re coming out with a skill set for a better ‘me,’ and a mindset for a better ‘we’ – that is, preparing for their own careers and then applying those skills to be a better person for the world.”

But, according to Wilson, other colleges – including those in the Ivy League – are “playing a different game” – one that doesn’t prepare students in quite the same way. While many schools offer quality education, students at HBCUs are graduating as “soldiers for a better democracy” and paving the way for a more diverse, inclusive society. 

Three people together smiling
E. Lorraine Baugh (left) poses with keynote speaker Dr. John Wilson and Chief Equity Officer Dr. Kimberley Truong, who organized the annual talk.

Currently the managing director of the Open Leadership Program (in collaboration with MIT) and chairman of the Open Leadership Council, Wilson previously served during President Barack Obama’s first term as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He also was the 11th president of Morehouse College, his alma mater, and was the executive director of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Millennium Leadership Initiative. 

He suggested the future trajectory higher education institutions should follow if they want to make change and see higher levels of inclusion and success in their diversity efforts.

“We can teach our students state of the art skills, but we also must teach them to not use these skills the way everybody else uses them, just for personal gain or to further their career, but to change the game and care more about other people than ourselves,” Wilson said. “That’s the message of hope and healing.”

For leaders in higher education, he said the other facet of this “prescription” is simple: instill confidence in all students, regardless of race, so they are empowered to succeed no matter what barriers they may face. 

The lecture series honors E. Lorraine Baugh, a long-serving trustee and first chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees who is now an Honorary Trustee, who was present at the lecture. Established in 2012, the visiting faculty speaker series has emphasized diversity and inclusion in the health professions. The program is made possible by the support of MGH Institute Honorary Trustee Carol M. Taylor and her husband, John H. Deknatel.

The event was hosted by the MGH Institute’s Office of Jedi, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and each year features a voice in the DEI space who brings an important message to the IHP community. 

“This year, Dr. Wilson taught us that we have so much to learn from Black communities and institutions,” said Dr. Kimberly Truong, the Institute’s chief equity officer. “Oftentimes, communities of color and more specifically, Black communities, are represented using a deficit framework, but we’ve learned that we need to change that, and we’re excited to do so here at the IHP.” 

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