So why does this one school perform so much better? Aside from highly disciplined students and strong institutional support, the difference is .
Here are perhaps the two most important leaders for UVA’s black students today:
- Sylvia Terry, associate dean of African-American affairs. She grew up in small-town Virginia, the only child of two teachers who pressed their students to go to college. Now Terry does the same. To fight the pressures bedeviling her students, including weak preparation and college debt, Terry dispenses hugs, advice and uplifting poetry. She also expects her students to perform.
Terry inherited her missionary zeal from her parents. They whisked students off on campus tours. On the blackboard of her mother’s English classroom were these words: “Don’t make excuses. Just make good.”
- Robert Bland, the first black undergraduate to earn a degree at UVA. The African-American students who came right after him used Bland as their inspiration. One student told the dean he’d look up at Bland’s window and see the light always on. “If Bobby Bland can do it, I can,” he would think, and the thought eventually turned into a catchphrase.
—Adapted from “At U-Va., a Dean Making a Difference,” Susan Kinzie, The Washington Post.