Philander Smith College*
City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Organization of the Year
“Social justice” is the phrase that Philander Smith, a historically black college in the heart of downtown Little Rock, exemplifies.
“Social justice has been part of the legacy of Philander Smith College since its inception,” said President Walter Kimbrough. “No other institution in the entire state has exemplified social justice like Philander Smith College.”
Philander started in 1877 and offers majors in business and economics; education; humanities; natural and physical sciences; and social sciences.
In the past several years, the college has boosted its overall graduation and retention rates, said Shareese Kondo, Philander’s director of public relations and marketing. The college has also upped its rate of graduating black males.
“In 2007 we were the first Arkansas college or university to give substantive effort and resources to improving the rates of black men [graduating], which is a national issue,” Kimbrough said. “Our Black Male Initiative in part has helped us achieve a black male graduation rate of 22 percent, up from 11 percent.”
That’s still unacceptable, Kimbrough said, adding that he hopes to escalate the graduation rate of black males to first or second place among colleges in Arkansas within three years.
The college’s Social Justice Initiative has opened Philander’s doors to a wide variety of experts and speakers on the subject.
“You can see that Philander Smith College and the people who work here are dedicated to carrying on that mission,” Kondo said. “It’s in every building, on the walls of every building, and you see it every time you walk in the door.”