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Leadership, Legacy, and the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership

Morehouse: A Legacy of Building Leaders

Like so many of our faculty I was drawn to serve at Morehouse because of its extraordinary legacy of developing leaders, providing leadership in social justice, and being a place where black men can exist as their authentic selves, surround themselves with men of every interest and gift, and thrive in a veritable oasis of empowerment and support. My commitment to the institution and our students has been nurtured by the vision and mission of Morehouse and what it means for our students, their families, our community, and the world. This place, Morehouse College, is critically important to our “beloved community” as we seek to create justice, equality, equity, and to meaningfully impact the world. 

I believe in generational blessings and understand that all that I have accomplished was built upon the foundation laid by my parents, grandparents and ancestors. I was advantaged with supportive, educated, and faithful parents who spent their lives in service and modeled leadership. I grew up understanding that excellent work is defined by its impact in serving others. I joined the faculty shortly after completing my graduate training and have devoted my professional life to developing my expertise, and thinking and working to advance the mission of the College through, most importantly, my efforts to train our students, support their brilliance, challenge them when they falter, and support the development of their individual excellence. Educating our students is core to our mission and is our most important work. Of course, faculty are key to the greatness of the institution and should be nurtured, developed, and supported. The talent and commitment of the Morehouse faculty is evident in the extraordinary experiences and outcomes of our exceptional students. Our faculty is excellent.

Morehouse College is a leadership incubator that creates opportunities for both students and faculty to develop strong leadership skills based in a service and servant-leadership approach. I am grateful that over the years I had the opportunity to grow as a leader. I moved up the ranks from assistant to full professor, and served as department chair, associate dean, and associate provost. Over time and with deep devotion to the college, I learned the strengths of and challenges facing the institution and sought to carve out opportunities to serve in ways that met needs and advanced the mission of the institution. I was blessed to have senior faculty and other leaders recognize my potential, mentor and support me, and guide my development. Some of those faculty leaders include J.K. Haynes, Marge Weber-Levine, and Ida R. Mukenge. My work as associate dean in science and math and later as associate provost resulted from this important mentoring as well as my strong work ethic, willingness to take on new challenges, and my preparation, including an understanding of the institution and awareness of best practices in liberal education (integrative and experiential learning, pedagogy, and assessment). I sought these roles because I was convinced that I could help to make Morehouse greater and to serve our students and community more effectively. I also declined advancement opportunities when I was not confident that I would be allowed to lead with integrity or for which I felt I was not the best choice. In all of my roles I attempted to advocate for faculty and students and cared deeply about the welfare and development of faculty at the College. I pursued excellence commensurate with what our students and the college deserve.

Andrew J. Young: A Legacy of Service and Leadership

Currently, I serve as the lead director of the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership and have the privilege to collaborate with three other institute directors and accomplished faculty members (Frederick Knight, Kipton Jensen, and David Rice) to remake the Center, ensuring that it is a reflection of the excellence of Morehouse College. Two years ago we began the work of re-envisioning the AYCGL in the image of its namesake, Andrew Jackson Young, Jr. Our goal is to extend Young’s extraordinary legacy in ways that positively impact the college, our community, nation, and world. As an ambassador, congressman, mayor, minister, and civil rights leader, Andrew Young has created a legacy of leading the fight for the human and civil rights of people nationally and internationally, providing leadership in pursuit of social justice, and creating opportunity and prosperity among those who are underserved. Andrew Young is a complex individual who has taken on many roles. He grew up in a middle class family in New Orleans, LA, where he received a strong education and the benefit of strong, committed parents and community. He grew up with a drive to serve, initially in the Peace Corps. and then as a young pastor in the most unlikely of places, rural Alabama, where he met his strong, smart, and committed wife of 40 years, Jean Childs. Young was a civil rights activist who joined the South Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1960 and became its executive director in 1964. Young worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was often the SCLC leader who worked behind the scenes, negotiated terms, and was a significant contributor to strategic planning and execution. Ambassador Young says he was able to serve in this role because he learned from his father that anger defeats reason, and he was undeterred by the tactics used by segregationists to undermine his composure or distract him from his goals. Young has shared that the movement was built on faith and that many successes resulted from events and circumstances that were unanticipated and fortuitous. Young was a Georgia congressman and then mayor of Atlanta, only the second in its history (after another Morehouse graduate, Maynard Jackson), who ushered in unprecedented economic growth in the city and later helped to land the 1996 Olympics. A close friend of President Jimmy Carter, Young served as ambassador to the U.N. from 1977 to 1979. He led with his sense of conscience and moral clarity, and was an ally for black people all over the world. Today, Ambassador Young continues to build his legacy as a servant leader in the world through the Andrew J. Young Foundation which supports education, health, and leadership development in the U.S., Africa, and the Caribbean.

The Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership (AYCGL)

As we engaged the important work of the Center with Ambassador Young and our colleagues, we designed the AYCGL with the capacity to advance scholarship and intellectual engagement on social justice and leadership, leadership development, training in activism and social impact, and experiential approaches to engage and grow leaders for our nation and globally.

We created four institutes with distinct purposes and with strong connections across the institutes: The Institute for Research, Civic Engagement, and Policy, the Leadership Studies Program, the Institute for Social Justice Inquiry and Praxis, and the Institute for International and Experiential Engagement. Since spring 2019, we have worked diligently to create a strategic plan and bylaws, seek seed funding, and build programming that is impactful and sustainable. Our advisory board, comprised of an interdisciplinary group of faculty and administrators, has provided significant leadership in visioning, planning and providing oversight of our work. The advisory board endorsed a collaborative leadership model that allows the AYCGL directors to work as partners in pursuit of our shared goals. 

Our dream is to create a Center that incubates innovation, leadership and social activism, supports and accelerates the production of scholarship, and expands the footprint of the College into our neighborhood, the City of Atlanta, nation, and internationally. We want to create something truly great that reflects the best of our faculty and community, and supports excellence in our students. The Center belongs to Morehouse and exists in service to its mission. It can be its best only with the engagement and commitment of our faculty, students, and administration. 

Since we began our work in earnest last spring, the directors of the AYCGL have identified strategic goals that include advancing the intellectual engagement and scholarship of our faculty, building collaborations with external community and national partners, and enhancing and developing scholarship programs, including the Oprah WinfreySMASH and Procter and Gamble scholarship programs. In 2019 theOprah Winfrey Scholars Program, a flagship service-focused scholarship program at the College, celebrated its 30th anniversary. This past October after a day spent with her scholars, Ms. Winfrey reinvested in the program and college with a gift of $13 million, resulting in a total gift and corpus fund of $25 million to support Morehouse College students. Currently, the program funds 48 students and provides service and leadership development experiences consistent with the College’s leadership approach. Since last spring the AYCGL directors prepared a $100 million MacArthur Foundation grant proposal that sought to extend the Morehouse model into our neighboring schools, the community, and nationally; re-established the Leadership Studies program and revised its curriculum; implemented J(ustice)-Mester; and established opportunities for faculty to engage in the work of the Center. Specifically, AYCGL faculty fellows utilize their expertise to advance their work and that of the Center, Social Justice and Leadership Innovation Awards for faculty and students facilitate the development and implementation of innovative ideas that create social justice impact, and Study Abroad Implementation Awards incentivize faculty to create innovative global experiences for our students. We have taken a number of steps to build the infrastructure of our Office of International Education, including the selection of Dr. Ruihua Shen as director, the establishment of strategic partnerships, the implementation of new processes, and the effective use of technology to support students and faculty. We are excited that this semester President Emeritus Robert Franklin joined the AYCGL as the Coca Cola Endowed Presidential Fellow. Dr. Franklin will engage our community, students and faculty in multiple ways that will enrich our students’ training experiences, provide opportunities for collaboration, and enhance our intellectual engagement around leadership. Shortly, we will begin to identify members of an external advisory board, and to finalize our Center bylaws which will, among other things, outline and clarify responsibilities, funding and terms of leadership positions, and succession in leadership roles. 

An Invitation: Building our own Legacies

Often it is difficult for students, faculty, alumni and others to find a space to innovative and partner in the creation of scholarship or deep thinking about important issues, impact the community in meaningful ways, support the development of leaders, provide leadership nationally and globally, or to create impact other ways. Every student, faculty member, and administrator at the College deserves the opportunity to pursue their professional dreams and the big ideas that inspire them. All of us deserve a professional journey defined by a pursuit of excellence and supported in ways that allow us to achieve our potential. The Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership is a place for this work to be done in an environment of support, respect, and collaboration. This message is my invitation to you, our beloved Morehouse College community, including our students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and external partners, to join us in the Center in any manner that reflects your ideas, interests, expertise, and professional aspirations. If not the Andrew Young Center, I encourage you to seek a space at the college to share your talents in ways that actualize your potential and advance excellence in your area of passion. Please share with us your ideas, vision, and goals. We hope to partner with you to become home to innovation, collaboration, and productive engagement at Morehouse College.


Jann H. Adams is a Professor of Psychology and Lead Director of the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership.