Claflin University and Ohio Wesleyan University Launch Historic “Sister” School Partnership

Apr 19, 2024

Claflin University President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack’s message of "Elevation and Transformation" was on full display Thursday (April 18) during the launch of a historic partnership with Ohio Wesleyan University. Warmack and OWU President Matt vandenBerg, Ed.D., signed a “sister” school Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to establish one of the most comprehensive collaborations between a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) and a Predominantly White Institution (PWI).

"This expansive partnership will enhance academic, research, and global studies opportunities for students and faculty at these two exceptional liberal arts universities," Warmack said. "As ‘sister’ institutions, we have several commonalities, most notably our affiliation with The United Methodist Church, our commitment to academic excellence, and our advocacy of diversity and inclusion.

We also embrace integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) throughout our liberal arts curriculum to prepare students for career opportunities in the 21st-century global economy. We are immensely excited to launch this partnership, which will provide mutual benefits for Claflin University and Ohio Wesleyan University," added Warmack, who will attend vandenBerg's April 19 inauguration ceremony.

Claflin has been ranked a Top 10 HBCU by U.S. News and World Report for 13 consecutive years. U.S. News and World Report also placed the University in its Top 10 among Top Performers in the Social Mobility category -- a measurement for colleges and universities that enroll and graduate a significant number of students who receive Pell Grants. At Claflin, these students earn degrees that prepare them for professional careers or to continue their education in graduate school.

Claflin's annual alumni giving percentage of more than 40 percent is the highest for all HBCUs and places the University among the leaders at all colleges and universities. Money.com named Claflin a Best College, and the school has a 79 percent student retention rate.

"It is truly extraordinary that our two venerable institutions have come together and pledged to change the world for our students, faculty, staff, and respective communities," said vandenBerg. "Our pathbreaking agreement creates a foundation for innovative and life-changing work that will transform the educational experiences we provide, enrich the work of our faculty and staff, and unlock untold potential to solve vexing societal challenges. We are immensely grateful to our partners at Claflin for their shared commitment and vision."

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is also one of the nation's premier liberal arts universities. Through its signature experience, the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to understand issues from multiple academic perspectives, volunteer in service to others, build a diverse and global perspective, and translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience through internships, research, and other hands-on learning.

Specifics of the new agreement will include the formation of an advisory board with representatives – including students, faculty, and staff – to help guide the work. Building an alliance through the lens of equity, justice, and community service, the advisory board will explore collaborations spanning multiple areas, including:

  • Faculty exchange opportunities
  • Student exchange opportunities, including study-away programs and OWU Connection experiences.
  • Shared international collaborations in Africa and elsewhere
  • Joint research projects
  • Joint initiatives in entrepreneurship and service, including collaborations that empower students to create positive social change and promote Ƶ development in their local communities.
  • Professional development, including opportunities for faculty to collaborate to identify and implement best practices in teaching and learning.

Marybeth Gasman, Ph. D, founder of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at Rutgers University, said many colleges and universities are interested in creating sister school agreements, but the Ohio Wesleyan-Claflin agreement is one of the most comprehensive she has seen.

"What I really like about this agreement is that it is equitable, thoughtful, and forward-thinking," said Gasman, who also serves as the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education and a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers.

"Presidents vandenBerg and Warmack are working together on a global scale to solve problems in innovative and research-focused ways. What could be better for either campus? This is exciting, and I hope other 'sister' school agreements will pop up all over the country."

As part of the new agreement, Ohio Wesleyan and Claflin immediately committed to building their strong “sister” school relationship through continuous innovation and exploration.

from left- Ohio Wesleyan University President Matt vandenBerg, Ed.D and Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack display memorandum of agreement  (Photo by James DeCamp)

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