Philander Smith College Student J’Nya Thompson is selected as 2021 White House HBCU Scholar

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce that J’Nya Thompson, a junior criminal justice major from Dallas, Texas, is a 2021 White House HBCU Scholar. Thompson will participate as part of the eighth cohort of scholars selected for this prestigious honor by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The program recognizes 86 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement and much more. 

“The HBCU Scholars announced today all have demonstrated remarkable dedication to their learning and exemplify the talent that our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have nurtured for generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The students who hold this honor are committed to creating a more just and equitable society through their civic engagement. They are leaders and change-makers in their communities, and I cannot wait to learn from them as they serve as ambassadors both for the White House Initiative and their institutions of higher education.

Over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year, HBCU Scholars will serve as ambassadors of the Initiative and their respective institutions. This cohort of HBCU Scholars will also participate in national and regional events, as well as be invited to the HBCU Week National Annual Conference which will take place September 7-10, 2021.

“I am beyond delighted that J’Nya has been selected to serve as a 2021 White House HBCU Scholar,” said Philander Smith President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “She truly embodies the essence of a ‘Philander Woman’ and exhibits excellence and tenacity in and out of the classroom. I know that she will represent both the Initiative and Philander Smith College with the utmost distinction.”

“I am so ecstatic and proud that the White House and the United States Department of Education have selected me to represent my institution, Philander Smith College, as a 2021 White House HBCU Scholar. This opportunity doesn’t go without praise to God for continuously ordering my steps! I would also like to send a special thank you to my college president and faculty for nominating me for this honor,” Thompson said.

Thompson was chosen from a pool of over 200 students who submitted applications that included a transcript, resume, essay, and letter of recommendation. Applications also required the signature of their university president, adding a level of prestige to this process.

Dr. Shannon Clowney Johnson is named Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs at Philander Smith College

Philander Smith College has announced that Dr. Shannon Clowney Johnson has been appointed to serve as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. The transition comes as a result of the departure of Dr. Anthony Johnson who had provided interim leadership since February 2020.

Dr. Clowney Johnson’s service to the College began in 2012 as an instructor in the Department of Language and Letters. Since that time, she has served in progressively responsible roles to include: Director of the McKinley Newton Honors Program, Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Assistant Professor-Language and Letters, and Director of the Panther Pantry & Fresh Market.  As a result of her record of service, most recently, she was promoted to Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.

In May 2021, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, native received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies for Community and Social Change from the University of Central Arkansas. In addition, she holds a Masters in Public Administration and a Masters in Technical Writing, both from UA-Little Rock. Her Bachelor’s Degree from Wellesley College is in Africana Studies/International Relations.

“Dr. Shannon Clowney Johnson has long been an invaluable member of our Academic Affairs team,” said Philander Smith President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “And now as Interim Vice President, I am confident that she will continue to deliver the same consistency of excellence to ensure a smooth and seamless transition within the Division of Academic Affairs.”

Clowney Johnson’s appointment is effective immediately.

Philander Smith College 2020 graduate, Maria Meneses-Ramos in inaugural Public Health program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Philander Smith College Class of 2020 graduate, Maria Meneses-Ramos is in the inaugural Medical Scholars in Public Health program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Meneses-Ramos, who was an honors Biology Pre-Med major, participated in the MedTrack program at PSC.

The MedTrack program is a partnership between UAMS, Philander Smith College and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The partnership is aimed at helping more minority students enter the medical field. It provides a combination of mentoring, tutoring and assistance navigating the application process for medical school and other health care career opportunities.

According to Meneses-Ramos, she plans to go to medical school to become a doctor. Her overall mission is to help Arkansas to have a better quality of life.

She said about her undergraduate experience, “Philander Smith College is an institution that stands for what they say they are. They truly are there to help and they stand for social justice.”

Her admission into the Medical Scholars in Public Health program is a first step. The program will serve as an educational bridge to a master’s degree in public health and/or a medical degree for Arkansas residents who come from socially, economically or geographically disadvantaged backgrounds and who have faced challenges in the medical school admissions process.

Philander Smith’s Roderick Smothers Jr., Named President of Gulf Coast Athletic Conference

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce the election of Roderick Smothers Jr., Athletic Director at Philander Smith College, as the President of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. As president, Smothers will supervise the organization’s affairs, constantly review existing activities, and recommend improvements to advance the conference’s mission.

“There’s work to be done and it is an awesome responsibility and opportunity to be named conference president. We have a great group of colleagues and I look forward to building a strong and productive working relationship with my peers,” Smothers said.

Smothers was named Interim Athletic Director at Philander Smith College in August 2020. PSC has garnered many successes in athletics during his tenure, including the 2020 Gulf Coast Conference Championship in Men’s Cross-Country Track. The Vidalia, Louisiana, native earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Langston University in Oklahoma and a Master’s Degree in Sports Management from the University of the Southwest in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Smothers added, “My goals are to help expand the conference and to strengthen our service to member schools.”

The Gulf Coast Athletic Conference announced that Tougaloo College’s Keith Barnes and Larry Glover from Fisk University will join Smothers on the leadership team.

Barnes, Athletic Director and Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Tougaloo College, will be the GCAC’s representative on the National Administrative Council. Glover, Athletic Director for the conference’s newest member, Fisk University, will serve as the chair of the Council of Athletic Directors.

For more information, visit

Social Justice Institute at Philander Smith College Receives $25K Grant from Building Black Communities Fund

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce that the Arkansas Community Foundation and the Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collaborative have awarded $25,000 to the institution’s Social Justice Institute.

“We are excited to be named a recipient of the Building Black Communities Fund and look forward to this new funding being used to support our programs and initiatives that play an important role in impacting the greater Little Rock community,” said Christopher L. Harvey, Interim Associate Director, Social Justice Institute Philander Smith College.

According to Heather Larkin, President and CEO of Arkansas Community Foundation, Facebook, Inc. provided the funding which went to 40 Black-led and Black-serving nonprofit organizations in Central Arkansas. 

In collaboration with Auburn Theological Seminary and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the College reimagined and reinvigorated the SJI with a vision for global impact. Themed “Justice Reimagined,” the Institute seeks to embrace and catalyze work in social justice across multiple domains: education, health, environment, community, economics, politics, identity, civil, criminal, religious, racial, gender, age.

To learn more about the SJI, please visit

Philander Smith College Student Joins 2021 Expanding Diversity in Economics Summer Institute at University of Chicago

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce that John Amhanesi, a junior with a double major in business management and psychology, will participate in the inaugural cohort of the Expanding Diversity in Economics (EDE) Summer Institute offered by The Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI) at the University of Chicago. The EDE Summer Institute will be held virtually from July 18-August 6 and will identify and support talented undergraduate students from a broad range of backgrounds interested in the study of economics.

An international student from Benin City, Nigeria, Ahmanesi is a member of the McKinley Newton Honors Academy at Philander Smith College and will be one of 45 participants from a pool of more than 200 applications from 31 institutions. The cohort GPA average is 3.78 on a 4.0 scale.

Amhanesi said, “I am very passionate about research centered around behavioral economics, decision science, and policy management. I want to ask questions that will promote inclusion in policy objectives, market strategy, organizational operations, and people management. Currently, I am a PRIMO (Program for Research in Markets and Organizations) research fellow at the Harvard Business School and a summer intern at NVIDIA Corporation.”

“Talent is dispersed widely, and this program will help to bring a wider set of people into economics,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and Director of BFI.

Following the 2021 summer program, participants will become part of an ongoing EDE mentoring network. Select participants will be eligible to join research projects and complete assistantships during the academic year. To learn more about the program, visit

Congressman French Hill Leads Forum at Philander Smith College

U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-AR 2nd District) paid a visit to Philander Smith College on Monday, April 5th to hold a public affairs forum with students, faculty and administrators. The Congressman spoke about a range of issues including public-private partnerships, investment in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), student loan debt repayment programs, and the need for allied health care professionals in Central Arkansas, among other topics.

In his fourth term, Hill serves as the Co-Chair to the Bipartisan and Bicameral Congressional HBCU Caucus. In 2019, he hosted a summit on HBCUs in Little Rock that attracted participants from across the state and nation. He also supported the permanent reauthorization of more than $250 million in funding for HBCUs.

“We appreciate the focus and work of Congressman Hill in support of the nation’s most venerable institutions,” said Philander Smith College President Roderick Smothers Sr. “He has certainly been an unwavering advocate of Arkansas’s HBCU delegation, so it is not surprising that he would engage our scholars in dialogue about critical issues impacting their lives and our communities.”

The Congressman praised Philander Smith for its history of preparing young people for careers that will allow them to benefit not only Central Arkansas but communities across the nation. He also encouraged students to communicate the “value proposition” of HBCUs to corporate entities as they seek professional opportunities. 

 “I have been a champion for HBCU schools and students, and I am excited to continue to serve the HBCU communities in Congress,” Hill said. 

Hill engaged with students at the invitation of Dr. Daniel Egbe, Chair of the Division of Social Sciences at Philander Smith College. Several PSC students greeted Hill, including SGA President Keilan Patterson, SGA Chaplain J’Nya Thompson, Miss PSC Jerrin Cooper, and Mister PSC Terrian Livingston. Sophomore Class President Imri Davis introduced the Congressman.

Gift Celebrates Iconic Philander Smith Alumnus

On the heels of Black History Month, Philander Smith College is pleased to announce a $25,000 gift from Rush and Linda Harding of Little Rock to honor Scipio A. Jones who attended the institution in 1883.  Later this year, a commissioned portrait of Jones – painted by Wade Hampton, a Little Rock native now living in New York City – will be hung in the downtown Little Rock post office that bears the name of the pioneering civil rights lawyer.

The lead gift to fund the project, which is estimated at a total of $50,000, is being made by the Hardings who, as longtime supporters, have strong ties to Philander Smith.  A former member of the College’s Board of Trustees, in 2018, Rush Harding was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the institution for his valued service and financial contributions.

“Dr. Rush and Linda Harding have been staunch supporters of Philander Smith College for a very long time,” said Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. president of Philander Smith College. “Their latest act of generosity to ensure that a portrait of our alumnus, Scipio A. Jones, is placed in the post office that bears his name is just another example of how they continuously seek ways to lift up Philanderians and our institution.”

Born to an enslaved person in Tulip, Ark., Scipio Africanus Jones attended Walden Seminary (now Philander Smith College) before receiving his bachelor’s degree from Shorter College in North Little Rock. Denied admittance to law school because of his race, Jones passed the Arkansas Bar in 1889 after serving legal apprenticeships and was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court bar in 1905.

Jones is perhaps best known for his skillful dense of the Elaine 12 during the Elaine Race Riots of 1919 when twelve Black sharecroppers were wrongly charged and sentenced to death by an all-white jury for their alleged involvement in the murder of a white man. As another 87 other Black men were convicted for participating in the ensuing riots, Jones was hired as the defense attorney for all 99 of the convicted men in a case that was heard before the United States Supreme Court.

“In 1969, I was in the first totally integrated class in Clarendon, Ark., where I am from. Elaine schools played in Clarendon’s conference in sports and I have vivid memories of my Black teammates being apprehensive about traveling there to play because their grandparents shared with them what took place in 1919,” said Rush Harding.  “This is why as stakeholders in Philander Smith College, Linda and I are honored to make this gift to honor such a distinguished Arkansan and Philander Smith alumnus.”

Signed into law in December 2020, it was legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-AR) that is allowing the Scipio A. Jones Post Office Building located at 1700 Main Street in Little Rock, just minutes from the Philander Smith campus, to “accept and display” a portrait of Jones’ likeness.

Philander Smith College Ranked Among HBCUs with the Highest Four-Year Graduation Rates in the Nation by U.S. News and World Report

Philander Smith College has been ranked seventh among 41 HBCUs in the nation for the highest four-year graduation rates among first-time, full-time students who started in fall 2013. This ranking was announced by the U.S. News (and World Report) Short List, that magnifies data points in specific areas for colleges and universities across the country. 

 “It is extremely rewarding to have Philander Smith College recognized on a national level for the outstanding work done by our faculty on an ongoing basis. Our mission is to graduate academically accomplished students, grounded as advocates for social justice, determined to change the world for the better,” said Dr. Roderick L. Smothers Sr., President of Philander Smith College. “This report is another confirmation that we are achieving our mission,” he added.

Among the 41 ranked historically Black schools that provided this data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average four-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students who started in fall 2013 was around 22%. However, at each of the 11 HBCUs with the highest four-year graduation rates, including ties, more than 30% of first-year students graduated within four years. Philander Smith College’s graduate rate is 35%.

Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer for Philander Smith College, Dr. Anthony B. Johnson  said, “ The Office for Academic Affairs and the faculty of the college support Philander Smith College’s mission and strive to foster an environment that is intentional, corrective, and forward in student development. The graduation of our students is the culmination of an environment that includes a rigorous curriculum, co-curricular and experiential activities, undergraduate research and internships, and leadership and cultural studies.”

Many of the nation’s most prominent African Americans earned their undergraduate degrees from historically Black colleges and universities, commonly known as HBCUs. These schools were established during the era of segregation to grant Black Americans academic opportunities they would otherwise have been denied due to discrimination. HBCUs have a significant track record of educating influential Black leaders.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the 15th Surgeon General of the United States and the first African American and the second female to head the U.S. Public Health Service; Lottie Shackleford, the first African American Mayor of Little Rock; and Robert Blue, former ExxonMobile executive and noted philanthropist are among many outstanding Philander alumni.  

According to U.S. News and World Report, how long it takes a student to graduate can depend on various factors. For instance, a student may elect to transfer to another school for a better fit, potentially increasing his or her time to graduation depending on how many credits are carried over. Academic struggles, changing or adding majors, financial difficulties or other personal challenges can also play a role in whether a student is able to graduate in four years.

For more information about the ranking, visit

Philander Smith College offers 20 undergraduate majors across five core academic divisions. For more information about admissions and enrollment, please visit  or call 501-370-5300.