Rachel LC Powell – The Real HU

Rachel Powell

Rachel LC Powell

I didn’t know I wanted to attend a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) until I visited one during a high school college visit. I immediately felt welcomed, protected, encouraged, and a member of an extended family.

Attending Howard University in Washington, DC, in the 1990s was an interesting time — although my classmates and I had the academic and extracurricular experiences of most college students, we saw the hard-hitting effects of what happened when drugs were introduced to a major metropolitan city. As a

student in the School of Communications, journalism professors pushed students to explore how local and national news covered the issues of drugs, health, race, and what I later learned to be social determinants. Public relations and marketing professors taught the impact of messaging, branding, and corporate partnerships on the perceptions and realities for different communities. And aside from the classroom lessons, attending an HBCU with other Black students from across the globe really proved that Black people are not a monolith. While we share many life experiences, Black people have a range of beliefs on politics, the arts, religion, and other facets of life.

Today, in my role as Associate Director for Communication Science in CDC’s NCHHSTP, I can rely on these long-ago-learned lessons to help ensure the work I do and contribute to is helpful and is not demeaning. Communication colleagues in NCHHSTP share messages through campaigns, media, partnerships, and other channels to help people live healthier lives. This can’t be done effectively without understanding your audience and meeting people where they are.

While every college or university provides its alumni with unique experiences, attending an HBCU truly helped shaped the person I am – both professionally and personally.