Two big higher ed developments: Return of Michigan HBCU, new build in Times Square

The revival of institutions in Detroit will provide a pipeline of opportunities for diverse students in retail.
By: | January 4, 2022
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In March of 2022, the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design plans to reopen in Detroit. Its significance cannot be understated, according to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, education leaders, state representatives and the man who helped make it happen, D’Wayne Edwards.

Edwards, a controlling stakeholder in the former school that closed in 2013, pushed to reestablish the retail design institution under a new name and with a mission to make it the first Historically Black College and University to be reinstated and the first in the state of Michigan. When Whitmer gave her approval to two House bills in late December, that all but cemented the return of this school, first established in 1939 by trailblazer Violet Lewis and rebranded with a focus on the future. Some classes are scheduled to start in May.

“Governor Whitmer made history when she signed this legislation into law to rebuild the Lewis College of Business,” said Katrenia Camp, President of the Detroit Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. “This will give countless students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow in their parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps by attending an HBCU in the city of Detroit. This is our opportunity to build pathways of opportunity for people to learn and live at their fullest potential.”

Those paths previously existed thanks to the efforts of Lewis, who led it from secretarial school to accreditation as a junior college. For more than 50 years, it helped prepare women for careers, receiving its HBCU designation in 1987 before closing in 2013.

“Our goal is to celebrate Violet T. Lewis’ life’s work she established in the city of Detroit,” said Edwards, who heads the shoe-design school Pensole Design Academy in Oregon and is a former designer for Nike. “Today moves us forward to another major step in continuing her legacy.”

It’ll do that through the support of partners Target and the Gilbert Family Foundation, along with the College for Creative Studies, where it initially will be positioned before it finds a permanent home. Design will be a heavy focus of this institution, but most of the curriculum and hands-on learning through the Center will be based around STEM and business fields, giving students a competitive edge in new jobs. The college says “substantial tuition assistance” will be available.

“Michigan’s creative talent has long been an important part of its economic success,” said Don Tuski, president of the College for Creative Studies. “The state boasts the highest concentration of commercial and industrial designers in the country. I thank Governor Whitmer for taking action to support this pipeline of underserved talent alongside the countless partners who have stood up to make this a reality. We can create generations of equitable access to the skills that will lead to good-paying jobs and create products and services that can define the future.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also lauded the reestablishment of Lewis College. “As a predominantly Black city, this helps send a clear message that we are building one city for everyone, with opportunity for everyone.”

School moves to a key spot in Manhattan

Nonprofit Touro College and University System announced that it is building a new 243,000-square-foot campus at 3 Times Square in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

The System serves 19,000 students across 35 campuses across the U.S. and in Israel, Berlin and Moscow, but this hub at the corner of 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue will be a signature piece for the Rudin family. The eight floors in the 30-foot skyscraper originally designed for the Reuters Group, promises to be an engaging, dynamic space for learning as the city emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Throughout the 2020 and 2021 academic years, our schools and programs adapted and thrived during the transition to online and hybrid education, and we will continue to incorporate what we’ve learned to help our school and approach to education evolve,” said Dr. Alan Kadish, President of the Touro College & University System. “After conducting comprehensive surveys and thorough conversations with faculty, staff and students, we know our community places great value on in-person learning.”

Touro, celebrating its 50th anniversary with its sights set on “the next 50 years” will renovate the space to accommodate a library, academic facilities, laboratories, student lounges and cafés, as well as a featured three-story glass-walled lobby and sculptural façade “to diffuse the light of Times Square.” The benefit of the location: It’s not only in the heart of the city but easily accessible to all forms of public transportation.