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Howard President Ben Vinson III leaves students and faculty optimistic during community cookout

Students and faculty express their fondness and confidence in the university’s newly appointed president, Ben Vinson III, and the future of Howard.

President Ben Vinson III poses for a photo with members of the Howard community. Vinson was announced as the university’s 18th president in May 2023 and began his role as president this fall. Vinson is an academic leader and historian of the African diaspora. Before coming to Howard, Vinson served as the provost and vice president at Case Western Reserve University. (Caya Craig/The Hilltop)

Immediately following last week’s 2023 Opening Convocation, the university held a cookout on the Yard where members of the Howard community chatted and took pictures with President Ben Vinson III. Students and faculty also gave their initial reactions to his convocation speech.

The Sept. 16 cookout included numerous activities and indulgences, among them cartoon drawings of students, zap-a-mole, a wide selection of barbecued foods, and an address to attendees from Vinson. 

“I can’t think of a better place to convene than the Yard with a cookout,” Vinson said. “Thank you guys for everything. I am looking forward to an incredible run with all of you, and please enjoy the cookout.” 

Vinson ended his address by leaving the stage to interact with listeners eager to meet the new president. He took numerous selfies and shook hands with guests, even stopping for a quick conversation with those who asked.

Kyla Richardson, a freshman marketing major from Atlanta, said that hearing Vinson discuss his life story and mission for this school year in his convocation speech excited her for what’s to come this year. She also said that after seeing Vinson’s interactions with students on the Yard, she believes he will make a great president for Howard University. 

“I think he’ll be a good fit,” Richardson said. “He seems down-to-earth and open-minded, like many people on campus.” 

Mitchell Grey, a freshman finance major from Toronto, believes Vinson will provide a different perspective that the university needs.

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“I think President Vinson will provide a different view. One thing that he mentioned in his speech is that Howard has always been on his mind,” Grey said. “Even though he did not attend Howard or another HBCU, I think he has a good understanding of what the culture here is like.” 

According to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. Laurence C. Morse, Vinson’s extensive history of working for universities will benefit his role as president. 

“Dr. Vinson is an experienced, capable, higher education leader who has shown in his prior positions a willingness to be innovative and to take risks,” Morse said. 

Howard’s 18th president, Ben Vinson III, speaking at the 156th Opening Convocation in Cramton Auditorium on Sept. 15. (Keith Golden Jr/The Hilltop)

Dean Bernard Richardson of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapter said Vinson’s convocation speech was nothing short of inspirational. The dean believes that Vinson has the qualities of a unifying leader who can bring people together, something he said he is excited to see take place on Howard’s campus.  

“Students can look forward to someone who shares the spirit of bringing students together, and the inclusion of students in every conversation,” Richardson said. “I think that’s symbolic of what’s coming.”

Senior Armaní Washington, the 85th Miss Howard University and media broadcasting and journalism major from Chicago, believes that transparency amongst administrators and students is needed to create a comfortable learning environment. That, she says, will enforce trust and build those relationships on campus.

“My expectations for the new administration is to be communicative with students and to be fully transparent,” Washington said. “That builds a relationship of comfortability as well as making sure that students feel seen, heard, respected and supported. I think that full transparency will help with that.” 

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With the newly appointed president and administration, Washington believes that Howard University will see a more connected campus between leadership and students.

“Students can expect a more connected, united front amongst administration with the students, as well as with student leaders and everyone on campus,” she said. “I think in the past that is something that students have asked for, just to feel connected and feel a sense of family, and I believe that this year they can expect that.” 

Morse said Howard can expect continued growth with the new administration. The new ideas and aspirations brought about by Vinson will benefit the community as a whole, he believes. 

“We have built an extremely solid foundation here that prepares us and gives us an opportunity to continue very significant upward momentum,” Morse said. “I am looking forward to new ideas and can say that I expect great things from him.” 

Copy edited by Diamond Hamm

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