Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.® Presents Philander Smith College with First Installment of $100,000 Endowment

Over $1.6 Million Distributed to HBCUs During Black History Month

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (AKA), in partnership with the Educational Advancement Foundation (EAF), has pledged an endowment in the amount of $100,000 to Philander Smith College as a part of the organization’s AKA-HBCU Endowment Fund.


 On February 28, 2019, Philander Smith College president, Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, Sr.,  joined 31 other presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at the Alpha Kappa Alpha International Headquarters in Chicago to accept the first installment of their institution’s award.  

 “Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has implemented the AKA-HBCU Endowment Fund with the goal of investing in the future of our young people and the sustainability of our treasured HBCUs,” said Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. International President, Dr. Glenda Glover. “Our organization has pledged to donate a total of $10 million dollars towards the endowment, and we are honored to provide Philander Smith College the first $50,000 during our February event as we celebrate Black History Month and the legacies of all HBCUs.”

 “Philander Smith College is immensely grateful to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. for its strong display of commitment to the future of HBCUs through its AKA-HBCU Endowment Fund. Moreover, our gratitude is heightened even further that Philander Smith is a beneficiary of this extraordinary investment,” said PSC President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr.

 The historic event gathered presidents from HBCUs across the nation and featured remarks from Dr. Glenda Glover as well as a tour of the iconic and recently renovated Ivy Center International Headquarters in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

“This endowment will aid our scholars who face financial challenges as they strive to complete their education. So it is especially poignant to conclude Black History Month by attending the HBCU President’s Reception to receive the first installment of this generously charitable act,” President Smothers remarked.

‘Opportunity and Progress’: U.S. Rep French Hill and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott Visit Philander Smith College

Two members of the United States Congress visited Philander Smith College (PSC) today to discuss the vision  for federal tax breaks in distressed areas, now known as “Opportunity Zones.”

 U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-AR) and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) visited with PSC President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. and a student representative of the College’s newly re-instated Community Development Corporation, junior Russell Williams III. On a rainy afternoon, the group pored over a map detailing where the College’s properties sit which are designated as an “Opportunity Zone” and discussed potential strategies to attract investors and businesses to benefit not only them but also the community adjacent to the institution.

 Sen. Scott, who was raised in a single-parent household in North Charleston, South Carolina, that he says was “mired in poverty,” has been traveling across the country to bring attention to his anti-poverty initiative.

As the author of the Opportunity Zone portion of the 2017 tax reform bill, Scott’s vision is to drive jobs and economic growth which would breathe life into struggling, low-income areas. 

 Economic revitalization is a key component of Philander Smith College’s social justice-driven mission and its ‘Forward Initiatives’ created to ensure the vitality of the institution and the community in which it is located. 

Announcing the 2019 Living Legends Honorees

Philander Smith College has announced the honorees for the Annual Living Legends Banquet which will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 21, 2019 in the Nugent Conference Room at the Harry R. Kendall Health and Science Mission Center on the college’s campus.

 In its twelfth year, the Living Legends Banquet seeks to honor individuals who have made a lasting impact on the community and the campus. This year’s Living Legends honorees include: PSC alumna and long-time professor Dr. Lillian Ross; former Little Rock Vice-Mayor and Community Leader Kathy Webb; retired educator and long-time PSC supporter Janet Davis-Tate; PSC Executive Vice President Dr. Darnell Williams; Little Rock pastor Dr. C. Dennis Edwards; PSC alumnus and religious leader Rev. Mark Norman; PSC Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Carmen Hardin; Director of Professional Development and Student Engagement, Dr. Vernita Bowens, and current PSC student athlete Tierra Bell.

 The Living Legends Banquet serves as the culmination of Philander Smith College’s annual Religious Emphasis Week (February 16-23, 2019), which engages students, faculty, staff and the community in activities and programming designed to provide opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth. This year’s theme “The Micah Mandate” focuses on justice, kindness and humility as keys to successful living. Through the Living Legends Banquet, the College strives to give distinction to individuals who are serving God by serving the community. Honorees are comprised of community leaders, Philander Smith College faculty, staff, alumni and a PSC current student.

 “We are always delighted to take this opportunity each year to recognize those in our community who leave a lasting legacy of leadership and service,” says Rev. Ronnie Miller-Yow, Philander Smith College Chaplain and Dean of Religious Life and Campus Culture. “It is the dedication and sacrifice of these individuals who have helped to uplift our communities.”

Philander Smith College Announces New Choral Director

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce that the renowned Philander Smith Collegiate Choir is now under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Hayes who previously led the choir from 1985-1993.


A graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Hayes is a respected and noted choral director with over 33 years of experience in higher education. He has led the choirs at a number of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) including Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, Alabama), Lemoyne-Owen College (Memphis, Tennessee) and most recently at Wiley College (Marshall, Texas).

Dr. Hayes’ tenure as a choral director boasts several noteworthy accomplishments. Under his leadership, the Wiley College Choir recorded movie soundtracks for notable films such as The Great Debaters (2007), The Good Fight: James Farmer Remembers the Civil Rights Movement (2009) and The Birth of a Nation (2016). Additionally, he has directed both Wiley College and Tuskegee University in concert at the White House.

The Philander Smith Collegiate Choir gained national acclaim during Dr. Hayes’ previous tenure, traveling frequently to perform at the request of then-President Bill Clinton, including being a highlight of his 1993 Presidential Inauguration—becoming the first HBCU choir to do so. Dr. Hayes also led the choir in appearances with Grammy Award-winning artists such as Jennifer Holliday and Michael Bolton.

“We are so thrilled for the return of Dr. Stephen Hayes to Little Rock and Philander Smith College,” said President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “His long-standing career and success with HBCU choirs speaks for itself. Our Collegiate Choir is a jewel of the institution and Dr. Hayes’ return is a critical step in helping move the choir forward to its next level of excellence.”

Entertainer “Ray J” Falls in Love with Philander Smith College

The 2018 PSC Homecoming closed out with a bang, in more ways than one.


 As part of the Homecoming Schedule, actor/singer/entrepreneur Ray J  (born William Ray Norwood, Jr.) was the featured gear speaker for the College’s popular “Bless the Mic” Lecture Series. After a well-received talk to an audience of more than 500, the entertainer spent the next couple days on campus, enjoying a dose of the Philander Experience. These inspiring encounters led Ray J to decide to enroll as one of the newest PSC Panthers, scheduled to begin classes in the Spring 2019 Semester.

The entertainer and businessman understands the importance of education, especially that of an Historically Black College or University (HBCU). “God is working! I chose to enroll in Philander Smith College. I’m very familiar with the HBCU experience because my parents attended HBCUs,” he wrote via his Instagram announcement. “I welcome the opportunity to further my business skills as I continue to grow and expand my technology company Raycon Global.”

The 37-year-old, who is a newlywed and new father, has achieved success through music and acting, but he is looking forward to adding “collegian” to his expanding resume — proving that it is never too late to attend college.

Philander Smith College Student, Kevontae Carter, Named HBCU Competitiveness Scholar

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) has announced the 2018 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars – the Initiative’s highest student recognition. Kevontae Carter, a junior at Philander Smith College, from Little Rock, AR, is among the elite group of students chosen for this prestigious honor.

Carter, a biology major, will serve a one-year term as a Competitiveness Scholar, in which he will learn and share proven and promising practices that support individual and HBCU competitiveness, with the goal of strengthening prospects for career and life success. As the embodiment of unique competitive advantages HBCUs provide students, Competitiveness Scholars are afforded opportunities to highlight their exceptional contributions to institutions, ignite new passions and explore ideas critical to lifelong growth and development.

Competitiveness Scholars are recognized for the 2018-2019 academic school year. Carter has proven himself a leader on and off the Philander campus serving as a member of the Pre-Alumni Council and recently completed a summer internship in Washington, D.C. He aspires to be a dentist and an entrepreneur.  “I am extremely grateful to have an opportunity to represent Philander Smith College this school year,” said Carter. “This is a great opportunity to collaborate with various organizations, students, and work professionals in creating different campus and civil service projects. I plan to capitalize on this opportunity to better serve Philander Smith College and the community.”

Carter is one of 63 students from 54 HBCUs who have received this honor. The special academic recognition includes a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2018 National HBCU Week Conference during which time scholars will participate in workshops designed to improve leadership, encourage ongoing personal and professional development and discover areas of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Tamika S. Edwards Named Executive Director of the Social Justice Institute

Following an extensive national search, Philander Smith College (PSC) has announced that Tamika S. Edwards, J.D., has been selected to lead the College’s Social Justice Institute. The appointment, which makes Edwards the second Executive Director in the Institute’s history, will begin September 4.

Established by Philander Smith College in 2007, the Social Justice Institute is the central incubator for the College’s focus on its mission to “graduate academically accomplished students, grounded as advocates for social justice….” In recent years, the Social Justice Institute has been inspired to rethink

and re-imagine its approach to justice-driven education. With a newly broadened scope, the Social Justice Institute has reorganized with the intent of making a greater impact not only locally, but also regionally and nationwide.

“We are thrilled that Tamika Edwards is joining us to lead the critical work of the Social Justice Institute, the heart and soul of the campus culture at Philander Smith College. We are confident in her tremendous ability and experience in bringing people together to help enact meaningful change.

Furthermore, her passion for addressing policies that breed inequality will help to elevate the Social Justice Institute’s status as a regional center and resource for justice work,” said PSC President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr.

A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Edwards has nearly twenty years of experience in public policy and community development. Most recently, she served as Director of Governmental Affairs at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) where she led the development and execution of the organization’s legislative strategy. Prior to AACF, she was Director of Public Policy at Southern Bancorp Community Partners and previously served as Community Affairs Specialist in the Office of U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln.

“I am beyond excited about the opportunity to lead the courageous work of the Social Justice Institute,” said Edwards, continuing, “As we move forward on a bold new path, the Social Justice Institute will strive to train advocates who are willing to challenge the lack of fair and just relations in our society and recognize the public policies that contribute to inequitable systems. I look forward to working with the amazing students, talented faculty and staff, as well as our entire community, to address the conditions and public policies that contribute to social injustice.”

Edwards earned the Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), the Master’s Degree in Professional and Technical Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), and the Juris Doctor from the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law. In addition to serving in numerous community leadership roles, she is a contributor to Talk Business and Politics, a news website that covers business, politics, and culture throughout Arkansas. In 2017, she was recognized in the inaugural edition of The Arkansas 200, published by Arkansas Business, as a leader “who influences the way we live, learn and do business in the state.”

With its most recent activities and events—to include a refreshed brand and look, to its Law and Justice Summit for local leaders, to its first-ever two-day ‘JusticeCon2018’ convening targeted at awakening and nurturing social justice activism in students—the Social Justice Institute at Philander Smith College is poised to become a global leader in justice education by inspiring and equipping students, thought-leaders, activists and community members to tackle the work of combatting inequity. More information about the Social Justice Institute can be found at

Philander Smith College Enrollment Grows by Double Digits for the Third Year in a Row

For the third year in a row, Philander Smith College is experiencing double digit growth in enrollment. The College is closing out its first week of classes, and preliminary reports show an almost 15% increase over last year’s enrollment.

The trending growth comes after the institution experienced consecutive years of decline in enrollment, dropping as low as 500 students in recent history. Projections calculate this year’s enrollment at over 1,000 students, almost doubling the enrollment in 2014. “This growth is not by chance,” says Philander Smith College President Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “It is the direct result of our concentrated efforts to provide educational opportunities to a broader range of students. Our admissions and enrollment management teams work diligently to expose students across the country to the unique opportunities that exist as part of the Philander experience.”

The Institution’s rapid rate of growth is gaining recognition. A recent report from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education noted Philander Smith as the fastest growing four-year institution in the state of Arkansas. Additionally, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) recognized Philander Smith as the fastest growing Historically Black College or University (HBCU) of its 38 member institutions, growing twice as fast as any other UNCF member school. “Our campus community is thrilled with the enrollment surge, which is evidence of the forward progress being made at our institution,” Smothers says. “This growth comes at a critical time, and shines a light on the key importance of HBCUs and the vital role they play in educating underserved students.”

As with many institutions across the country, accelerated enrollment growth can carry with it a number of challenges, one such challenge being capacity. Since 2016, Philander Smith College’s on-site residential campus facilities have been at full capacity, housing more than 400 students. In 2017, the College constructed Panther Village, a residential, living and learning community for scholars located two blocks from the main campus, to address the needs for overflow housing. With the most recent increase, Philander Smith College will look to expand Panther Village. This extension will add six new modular housing units, increasing the number of students the community can accommodate. The added units at Panther Village will alleviate the off-campus overflow which currently results in a number of students being housed at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites in downtown Little Rock.

“We are committed to providing our students a comfortable, safe and secure housing environment, which we know is essential to their success,” says President Smothers. “We are working expediently to accommodate the accelerated growth with the least amount of disruption to our students’ educational experience.” In keeping with that commitment, the Institution has plans to hire additional 24-hour staffing to cover the growing student community and help ensure security in that area.

In addition to increasing housing capacity, the Administration at Philander Smith College is working to ensure this growth is not lost. Based on preliminary reports, the College has increased retention more than 10% over the previous year. This a direct result of new policies and programming targeted specifically at retaining students. The record growth and increased retention provide encouraging evidence that Philander Smith College is on a forward trajectory to a bigger and brighter future.

Philander Smith College Receives $200,000 Contribution from Atlanta-Based Food Service Provider, Gourmet Services, Inc.

Philander Smith College announced the receipt of a $200,000 donation from campus dining provider, Gourmet Services, Inc, a premier food service management company based in Atlanta, GA. The contribution represents an initial installment of a long-term commitment of financial support to the College.

Photo of two people holding a large check.With over 40 years of experience in the industry, Gourmet Services, Inc. is the largest wholly-owned minority food service management company in the U.S. and currently manages Philander Smith’s on campus dining program. Its commitment and financial contribution to the College represent a partnership approach that is the foundation of Gourmet Services’ business model. “Our goal is to create a partnership that transcends food and dining services and helps the institution with retention, student services, and the entire student experience,” said Gourmet Services CEO, Valerie Goldston. “We strive to support the institution’s overall needs, thus becoming a true part of the entire campus experience.”

Philander Smith College, which has reported enrollment growth of over 20% during the last two years, is on an intentional forward trajectory. Philander Smith College President, Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, Sr., believes partnerships such as this are critical to the College’s new direction. “The goal is to create relationships with organizations that go beyond the services they provide to our campus and position them as part of the College’s long term growth. With Gourmet Services, we have identified a strategic partner who can help achieve our goals not only as it relates to dining, but the overall forward vision.”

In addition to the donation, Gourmet Services, Inc. has also committed to funding aesthetic improvements to the campus dining hall located in the C.J. Duvall Student Center. “With these modifications, we hope to create a more welcoming and friendly atmosphere while also improving the dining experience for students, which is a critical component of their campus life,” said Goldston.

New Policy: Philander Smith College Employees Licensed to Carry Guns Can’t Bring them to Work

Philander Smith College employees who have concealed weapons licenses must leave their guns at home according to its board of trustees opting out of a state law,  and a new employee policy. 


The Firearm and Weapons policy buttresses the board’s decision to opt out of the state’s campus gun law. The board voted at its May 3 meeting to prevent employees with concealed weapons licenses from bringing their guns to work. This act prompted the campus to create a policy notifying employees of the college’s rules and regulations regarding concealed weapons licenses.


The state law — Act 226 of 2013 — allows trained and licensed faculty and staff members at private and public colleges to carry concealed handguns at their schools. It goes into affect Aug. 16.


“Our policy reflects the board’s decision and informs our employees of their rights as they work on this campus,” said Chief Jack Matlock, director of Philander Smith College’s security detail. “We have armed security officers on our campus who are adequately trained to protect students, staff and faculty. We’ve don’t need anyone else carrying guns on this campus.”


The policy states that “All members of the College community, including faculty, staff, and students are prohibited from possessing, using or storing firearms, explosives or weapons on the premises of the College without the explicit authorization of the College, whether or not a state concealed carrier license to possess the same has been issued to the possessor. You may possess tear-gas type products in personal use quantities for self-defense, but you may not use them for purposes other than self-defense. Violation of this policy may be punishable by disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment, expulsion and/or contact of local law enforcement officials.”


Philander Smith College employs about 250 during the school year.  It’s unknown how many of these employees have concealed weapons licenses.