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Alcorn State University


One of the premier historically Black colleges (HBCU) and universities is officially under new leadership for the third time in as many months.

Alcorn State University has named its newest president more than two months after firing the Mississippi HBCU’s first woman to work in that capacity.

Dr. Tracy Cook was promoted to the position on an interim basis and will officially begin his tenure at Alcorn State on Saturday, according to a press release. Cook, who most recently worked as Alcorn State’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, previously held other positions at the school, including chief of staff.

Cook will replace Dr. Ontario Woodson, who had also been working as interim president of Alcorn State, which is the oldest public HBCU in Mississippi.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Cook serve as Interim President,” Dr. Alfred McNair, President of the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, said in a statement. “Dr. Cook will keep the university moving forward and building on its rich heritage.”

Cook will become the third Alcorn State University president and the second on an interim basis since April when the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees fired Felicia Nave from that same position.

Nave, the first woman president of Alcorn State, was “terminated” unanimously on April 20.

While the reason why Nave was fired is not immediately clear, Mississippi Today reported she had been interviewing for a similar position at another university in Louisiana.

There are three contract-related reasons why Alcorn State could have fired Nave, according to Mississippi Today: “Financial exigencies as declared by the board,” “for good cause,” and “for the Board’s convenience, without any showing of good cause or other cause.”

Nave’s firing led to Woodson’s brief tenure as Alcorn State’s interim president. Woodson was leaving the post “to focus his attention on his family,” the university said. Nave had been president at Alcorn State since 2019.

HBCU leadership

As the popularity of HBCUs soars, credit for that ongoing surge in enrollment has typically been directed to school presidents and other top-ranking faculty and staff members on campus. But while those positions have traditionally skewed older, a closer look at the changing face of HBCU leadership revealed that the trend has been decidedly reversing in favor of younger campus chiefs.

Not only have HBCU presidents been getting younger, but they are also increasingly women, another break in a longstanding, unofficial tradition that has made its mark, especially in emerging technologies that have an increasing presence on college campuses.


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