Fireside Chat with UDC President Sponsored by Alums Offers Insight and Reflection

Fireside Chat with UDC President Sponsored by Alums Offers Insight and Reflection

Fireside Chat with UDC President Sponsored by Alums Offers Insight and Reflection


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Washington Business Journal reporter Hannah Denham and President Ronald Mason Jr. during the fireside chat at UDC’s LEED Platinum Student Center on September 21.


UDC’s Office of Alumni Affairs and the UDC National Alumni Society sponsored an hourlong fireside chat with President Ronald Mason Jr. on Wednesday, September 21. Mason offered insight on the University’s successes and future goals as he reflected on his service.

Participants in the audience at the UDC Student Center ballroom and those watching the event on livestream were welcomed to the intimate gathering bringing together graduates of the University who are still invested in its growth and development.

Hannah Denham, a Washington Business Journal reporter, moderated the informal chat. She questioned President Mason on topics including UDC’s role in public education in the District of Columbia, the University’s Strategic Plan and the future of the University. She also presented Mason with questions from audience members.

Mason shared the history of the University, its predecessor institutions and its essential role as a public institution in the nation’s capital. He recounted the hurdles the University has overcome, including budget cuts and challenges to maintain enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As an institution, we are just getting started,” Mason said. “We’ve had to deal with budget cuts, the loss and regaining of accreditation for our Nursing Program, and helping students see the value of making UDC their first choice.”

He acknowledged UDC’s growing reputation of excellence with its recent ranking of 17th on the U.S. News & World Report Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) list.

“We have gone from zero to 17,” Mason said. “I expect that we will become number one. We want to not only be the best HBCU but one of the best universities in America.”

He added that UDC’s partnerships with corporate and government agencies are providing more opportunities for students to gain experience and exposure to new opportunities. UDC Undergraduate Student Government Association President Brent Thigpen, who spoke at the event, spent the summer interning at Boeing working on the new Airforce One and moving closer to his dream of becoming a pilot.

Under Mason’s leadership, the University began a multi-million-dollar capital renovation and expansion program, tripled spending on research, created the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs (CDIMA), initiated two new Ph.D. programs and launched (Urban Leadership & Entrepreneurship and Engineering & Computer Science). The University also secured $2.3 million for need-based scholarships through the most significant gift in its history.

Mason has a goal of increasing UDC’s enrollment to 4,000 students, and with 50,000 alums worldwide, Mason expects that number to continue to grow as its reputation and graduates soar.

Updating the University’s Strategic Plan is a process that is underway, and Mason encouraged alums to provide their input to ensure that all voices are heard, and all needs are met.

An audience member asked Mason about the type of person he would like to see as his successor.

“The talent out there today is amazing,” Mason said. “The person should be highly talented, energetic, likable, able to communicate well and confident enough to stop and listen when needed.”

Mason is the longest serving president in the University’s history. He is expected to step down in June 30, 2023. Before his appointment at UDC, Mason served a five-year term as chief executive officer of the Southern University and A&M College System and spent 10 years as president of Jackson State University. He has also served in various roles at Tulane University, including senior vice president, general counsel and vice president for finance and operations. He was also the founder and executive director of the National Center for the Urban Community at Tulane and Xavier universities.

When asked about his legacy at UDC, he said. “I don’t think the work is done yet. You do what you can with the time you have. There is so much untapped potential. We can claim accomplishments, but we can’t yet claim victory. I would be satisfied with someone just saying job well done, and we will pick it up where you left off.”