Danette Gerald Howard

Danette Gerald Howard, a Lumina Foundation executive and nationally acclaimed higher education leader, has been named the USC Race and Equity Center’s inaugural Executive in Residence. Prior to becoming a foundation leader, Howard served as Secretary of Higher Education for the State of Maryland. In that role, she led the creation, analysis, and revision of policies for all public and private postsecondary institutions, including the state’s four Historically Black Universities.

During her residency, Howard will lead our center’s strategic efforts to advance racial equity for and at HBCUs across the United States. She will also teach in our professional learning programs for higher education leaders and corporate executives.

“As an HBCU graduate, trustee, and long-time advocate, Dr. Howard is uniquely poised to guide us in launching a sustainable strategic racial equity agenda for what I personally believe is the most important sector of higher education in America,” says USC Race and Equity Center Founder and Executive Director Shaun Harper. “Too many policies and inequitable investment practices have harmed HBCUs over centuries. We are fortunate that Danette has generously agreed to join us as we leverage our center’s reputation, resources, and networks to accelerate the remediation of these historical and contemporary harms.”

For the last eight years, Howard has served in a range of executive leadership roles at Lumina, including Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Policy Officer. She created the Foundation’s first-ever HBCU Student Success Initiative (SSI), which focused on strategies to increase persistence, retention, and graduation rates at these important institutions. HBCUs that participated in SSI received funding and technical assistance to implement robust technology platforms and develop programs to address student attrition.

Danette serves on the Howard University Board of Trustees and chairs its Academic Excellence Committee. She graduated from Howard summa cum laude, and in 2015 received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Her master’s degree is from Harvard University, and she earned a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. Danette will collaborate with a trio of other HBCU alumni who work full-time at the Center: Wilmon A. Christian III (B.S., Hampton University), Jordan Greer (B.A., Spelman College), and Harper (B.S., Albany State University).

In 2019, the Center was commissioned to conduct a national study on understanding and minimizing threats to sustainable student enrollments at HBCUs, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Howard and others at the Center will use those research findings to create a multidimensional national campaign to increase Black student enrollments at HBCUs. Additionally, next month, the Center is launching a 20-member commission on HBCUs and racial equity. Howard is co-chairing this commission with Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough.

“I am honored to serve as the Center’s inaugural Executive in Residence, and I look forward to working with Professor Harper and the team on transformative and sustainable HBCU initiatives,” Howard notes. “My HBCU experience changed my life and I count it a privilege to lead such exciting HBCU-focused racial equity work at this consequential moment in time.”