On the job with Ferreli L. McGilvary

Ferreli L. McGilvary, Executive Director, Leadership Development, Elizabeth City State University
On the job with Ferreli L. McGilvary, Executive Director, Leadership Development at Elizabeth City State University. 

HBCUs have been recognized as places that, among other unique attributes, inspire engagement and social activism. Is that narrative alive today in the roles played by student affairs professionals and the student union? 

Coming into this role it was important that I was able to engineer experiences that evoked a sense of pride in their choice to attend Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). We have invested significant dollars to enhance the facilities through technology upgrades, audio and visual systems, and by creating vibrant spaces through new furniture that pops! Beyond the renovations lies the mantra of my departed mentor, Sharon S. Hoard: “Environment + Behavior = Outcome.” This simple formula is what drives engagement and social activism for our students and the university student union today. 

Nearly twice as many HBCU undergrads receive Pell Grants compared to the national average. How does the role you play take into account the additional financial needs many of these students face?

My responsibilities include managing the onboarding of new students in the enrollment process, and it is during this time where students with great aspirations and their finances begin to reveal how some students are able to attain the aspiration of being the first in their family to graduate from college. Pell Grants are monumental to student success. They can change a student’s life trajectory and reduce the debt they could face after graduation. As such, we make sure that students can access events for free when necessary, offer reduced prices and internal scholarships for attending cultural excursions, and provide professional development. A student’s lack of financial resources is never a reason for them to miss out on life-expanding opportunities.

Small- and special-mission colleges face unique challenges today. What day-to-day challenges do you face in fostering success within the scope of your role at an HBCU? 

My career in higher education has existed in the HBCU realm, which makes me very clear about the challenges our institutions face. The metric of success is defined in the data on how students are retained, persist and graduate! However, we often have to meet the same measure of success without the same financial resources, which makes us very resourceful in educating our students. It’s not an easy task, but my colleagues across the country and I are committed to ensuring students who choose an HBCU education can have a similar and much-improved experience. We offer a value proposition that must be experienced. We are experts in educating and creating an opportunity for black people and serve as a place of learning for all students who are open to understanding this experience. 
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