Pharmacist, health services researcher, faculty, administrator, business woman, and now Dr. Cynthia Warrick is the 7th President and the first female to lead Stillman College, a historically black liberal arts college in Tuscaloosa Alabama. With over 20 years of higher education faculty and administrative positions, Dr. Warrick received a Ph.D. in Environmental Science & Policy from George Mason University after completing a M.S. Public Policy at Georgia Tech and a B.S. Pharmacy degree from Howard University. She began her academic career with the pharmacy school faculty at Howard University, followed by appointments at the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center, Texas Southern University, Florida A&M University, and Elizabeth City State University. Prior to her selection as President of Stillman, she served as Interim President at Grambling State University and at South Carolina State University. Dr. Warrick is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and serves on the boards of the United Way of West Alabama, the West Alabama Chamber, the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society, and the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama.
Stillman College, authorized by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1875, held its first classes in 1876 and was chartered as a legal corporation by the State of Alabama in 1895. At that time, the name was changed from Tuscaloosa Institute to Stillman Institute. The Institute was a concept initiated by the Reverend Dr. Charles Allen Stillman, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa. The mission of the Institution expanded over the first fifty years as it acquired its present campus tract of over 100 acres as it became co-educational and opened a nursing school and hospital to provide medical care to African Americans in West Alabama. Stillman College is committed to fostering academic excellence, to providing opportunities for diverse populations, and to maintaining a strong tradition of preparing students for leadership and service by fostering experiential learning and community engagement designed to equip and empower Stillman’s students and its constituents.
Since arriving at Stillman College in January 2017 as the Interim President Warrick set out to transform Stillman College into the premier HBCU. Her initiatives at the College establish a model for HBCUs and other small liberal arts colleges to transform themselves by developing sustainable partnerships and programs that increase opportunity and access for their students. This model establishes other revenue streams that reduce the College’s dependence on tuition and fees and increase financial stability. When fully implemented, this model will prevent the need to increase tuition, ensuring a college degree is accessible and affordable, and will increase the competitiveness of Stillman College students as they apply for entry into major graduate programs and professional schools. Stillman College has established the only apprenticeship program at a 4-year institution in the state of Alabama in order to have a positive and major impact on graduates’ lives, families and communities. Incorporating community engagement as part of the educational programs at the College will ensure that Stillman is one of the first institutions local agencies think of when looking for partners to enhance community service.
Stillman College is located in a designated Opportunity Zone, which provides tax incentives for development investors. Dr. Warrick seized this opportunity to enlist the support of potential private equity partners and consultants to develop investment projects for the school’s vacant and unused property. Opportunity Zones offer a way to mitigate risk for impact investors who are interested in both profit and social good. Stillman is one of an estimated thirty to forty HBCUs with such investment opportunities on their campuses. Many of them are real estate investments or other business partnerships. Intentional development focused on the community needs can provide services that will benefit the students and the community and this type of partnership is the hallmark of Cynthia Warrick’s sustainability plan for Stillman College. The vicinity of the College is a food desert lacking restaurants or other retail outlets that could benefit the community. Development could provide housing for working adults and student veterans and other amenities that would elevate the area and increase its contribution to the standard of living in West Tuscaloosa.; the closest non-student housing is much too expensive for moderate income renters. Additionally, development could provide jobs for students, because most Stillman students do not have cars; transportation is a major barrier to part-time employment.
Dr. Warrick’s leadership at Stillman College has also focused on maintaining its academic achievements. In 2020, the College was reaffirmed as fully accredited by its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and it was named among the Colleges of Distinction for 2020-2021. These accomplishments demonstrate that Stillman College is not only fully affirmed by its peers as academically, procedurally, and financially sound, but it is also recognized by a national body that measures distinction among colleges. As a College of Distinction, Stillman College earned recognition for engaging students, great teaching, vibrant community activity and engagement, and successful outcomes of its programs.
Community partnerships have grown exponentially through the efforts of Dr. Warrick across all areas of the college. Stillman has been working closely with Chamber of Commerce and businesses in Tuscaloosa, like Mercedes Benz US International, B.F. Goodrich, Nucor Steel, and Hunt Refinery. Along with other Fortune 500 companies and the federal government, creating opportunities for internships, co-ops, and apprenticeships. Stillman was one of the first institutions to participate in the Governor’s HBCU Co-Op program.
Stillman College is taking the proactive steps under the leadership of Dr. Cynthia Warrick to build a model for HBCUs and small liberal arts college to transform with sustainability. Warrick sees the tenuous positions of small private colleges in general and HBCUs in particular as a moment of opportunity to rethink their positioning and their relationships. By focusing on external partnerships with local businesses and agencies, as well as with other educational institutions to provide broader opportunities for Stillman College’s students, Warrick is charting a new path for one small college that could become a map for others to follow toward greater opportunities for their students and more secure futures for their institutions.