A conversation on Black History Month with CBE professors

Black History Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of African Americans throughout history, and also to reflect on the roles of African Americans in our communities. We asked CBE faculty members Lisa Simmons (Business Communications) and Tony Stovall, Ph.D., (Marketing) to reflect on their own backgrounds and thoughts.

Simmons is a TU alum and the chair of the CBE Diversity Action Committee. Simmons along with her sister were the first in her family to graduate from college. Stovall, on the other hand, comes from a family of college graduates, including a cousin who graduated from Towson. Both, however, have had many similar experiences, including starting their careers in the corporate world before joining academia. And both professors believe strongly in the importance of pushing boundaries seizing opportunities that others might not have realized existed.

“Whenever I had the opportunity to do something that didn’t used to be allowed, I did it, because I can,” she said. “Instead of complaining about any lack of diversity, I volunteered to serve as the chair of the Diversity Action Committee to work toward solutions.”

Similarly, Stovall, who has a background in musical theater, took a path that was not very typical for most others because he could.

Pointing to TU’s graduation and retention rates of African American students, which well exceed national averages, both professors see a lot of progress and opportunity at TU. For example, Leah Cox’ the appointment of Leah Cox, Ph.D., as vice president inclusion and institutional equity was a great step forward. While there is always more to strive for, they said, both are proud of the strides Towson has made.

“I think Towson is getting a whole lot better at being an overall inclusive environment, and I appreciate that,” said Ms. Simmons. “I love that Towson’s website’s home page features Barnes and Harris,” she added, referring to Marvis Barnes and Myra Harris, who were the first black students graduate from the college, and are the namesake of the Barnes-Harris Scholarship.

Stovall echoed Simmons’ sentiments. He can see the diversity in his classroom.

“I teach more African American students in three classes than there were in the entire student body at my last school!”

While both acknowledged the importance of Black History month, they expressed hope that one day, it would no longer be necessary.

“Black history for me is every day,” said Ms. Simmons. “I hope one time in my lifetime, we don’t have to differentiate between one history and another.”

Until then, both will continue to work hard every day toward reaching that goal, as integral members of the Towson University community.

“We’re paving the way so the next generation doesn’t have to work as hard on these issues,” Stovall said.

By Moon Rhee, Professor, Department of Finance

This story is a part of the colleges monthly CBE Celebrates Diversity Series, which highlights student, faculty and staff stories from our diverse community.