Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Catholic historically black college, is distinguished for producing the greatest number of African American graduates who go on to complete medical school—not just among other HBCUs, but among all U.S. institutes of higher learning.
But Xavier excels beyond its stellar record of producing physicians. Last year, the school’s hackathon team finished in second place for the 2016 Bayou Classic Hackathon.
According to a study reported in The New York Times, Xavier ranks in the top 10 nationally for upward mobility: moving students who begin their college years in the bottom fifth of the income distribution into the top three-fifths.
What’s Xavier doing right? I posed that question to its president, C. Reynold Verret, Ph.D., who assumed leadership in 2015, following the 47-year tenure of Norman C. Francis, J.D., Xavier’s first lay, first male, and first African American university head.
An edited version of our email conversation is below:
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What is Xavier doing right?
Verret: Our motto at Xavier is “leave ready.” Everything we do aims at preparing our students to successfully tackle a broad range of challenges, once they leave.
Core to our mission is promoting a more just and humane society, by preparing our students to assume roles of leadership and service.
BE: How do Xavier alumni fare once they’re in med school? Do they make good doctors?
Verret: Xavier graduates leave campus fully prepared to excel in medical school and are sought after by medical schools across the country. Upon matriculation, they excel in a variety of specializations. For decades, Xavier graduates have been taking on leadership roles in the medical field.
The academic rigor, mentoring, and a culture of leadership and service, in particular, make Xavier graduates outstanding physicians.
BE: If you had a magic wand, what kind of preparation would Xavier students have had in high school?
Verret: We wish that all our entering students would have received the pre-collegiate education that they indeed deserve. Unfortunately, that is not the case nationally and regionally.
A key component of Xavier’s student success is the unique support we provide our first-year students, to help them adjust quickly to the rigors of college coursework. We have created systems to track students, so we know if they are struggling, and to provide the proper interventions if they should fall behind. So, if students arrive at Xavier not fully prepared, they are helped to catch up quickly.
There is also a deeply ingrained culture of support among the students, the likes of which I have not seen elsewhere in my career. The students form study groups, and they encourage and push one another to be better students. It is truly amazing.
BE: What is Xavier’s racial makeup?
Verret: It’s 69.7% African American, 13.1% Asian American, 6.7% white, and 3.5% Latino.
Xavier’s diversity is a strength. Creating an environment where a variety of perspectives and life experiences are celebrated is integral to preparing our students to leave ready to succeed and lead in our global society.
Learn more about Xavier at its website.