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A tale of two colleges: USC’s HBCU exchange program

first_img“I’m interested in going into obstetrics/gynecology to serve black women to make sure that they get the right treatment and that their problems are being taken seriously,” Carter said. Adrianna Carter (left), a senior majoring in global medicine and biological sciences at USC, and Alexandria Frank (right), a sophomore majoring in psychology at Howard University, are taking part in an HBCU exchange program this semester. Left:(Photo courtesy of Adrianna Carter) Right: (Sinead Chang/Daily Trojan) While  the program’s application process is lengthy -— something that has turned prospective participants off in the past — Carter was lucky, because Howard sophomore Alexandria Frank wanted to spend her spring semester at USC. However, USC wasn’t the perfect option for her. Over the past four years, she’s felt the Trojan pride on campus, but thought that she was always lacking something. Black students make up 5.6 percent of USC’s population as of last fall. Carter said she has always been one of few black students in her classes. So when she heard about USC’s Historically Black College and University Exchange Program during an information session at her freshman dorm, she knew she had to participate. She is now spending her final semester at Howard University in Washington, D.C. — one of the highest ranked historically black colleges in the country. “It took me a minute to realize that I was the only black person in my sports media class, and I was like ‘Oh, this feels weird again,’” Frank said.   “It has to be an even exchange,” Conerly said. “We’ve had years where [the HBCU’s] students are ready to go, [and] they want to come this way, but we may not have any students … that are able to complete the application process to go that way.” “She has a lot of ambition and drive,” Mendoza said. “[Most students] give up hope [on] the exchange program], but not Adrianna. She said she wanted to do it, and she’s getting it done.” Although it is rare for students to participate in an exchange program during their final semester, Carter said she was determined to spend a semester at Howard, even if it meant missing her last one at USC. She is currently taking three different science classes, which she said are much harder than the classes she took at USC. California dreamin’ Frank said she chose USC so that she could be closer to her family in Corona, but transitioning to the new environment was difficult for her. “I see my family every weekend,” Frank said. “I allow myself to go home constantly, knowing that when I’m back in D.C., I won’t be able to.” Molly Myerowitz, a professor and chair of the classics department at Howard, wrote a recommendation for Frank to participate in the exchange program. Myerowitz said she recommended Frank because she knew she wouldn’t “blow it off.” “I don’t really have any sort of connection with my professors here, especially not like I do at Howard,” Frank said. “At Howard, I’ve had a professor who I’ve taken two semesters back to back … most professors who I’ve had, I’ve gone to their office hours.” “I feel like it’s actually harder for me to adjust to USC culture … than it was for Howard,” Frank said. “I was [telling] one of my friends the other day, I have withdrawal from being around black people.” Unlike Carter, who is finishing her biology degree, Frank’s course load for the semester is varied. In addition to classes on subjects like modern Latin America and microeconomics, Frank said she is sitting in on two additional classes: sports media and a television symposium at the School of Cinematic Arts. “I actually didn’t think I was going to be able to do [the program] until this semester came around, and I was like, ‘I only have my undergrad units left, so this is something I want to do,’” Carter said. Frank, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in journalism and classical civilizations, attended a private high school in Riverside. She said her parents’ desire to see her more was a driving force in her decision to participate in the exchange program. The program, led by the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs, offers students a choice between three HBCUs: Spelman College, Dillard University and Howard. Carter is the only USC student participating in the exchange program this semester, which CBCSA director Rosalind Conerly said is not unusual. “She’s a terrific student, she is somebody who will get the most out of the experience,” Myerowitz said. “[And] she’s a California girl. [It’s] nice for her to have a year in warm climes.” At Howard, Frank said she often attends her professors’ office hours to discuss anything from her personal life to homework assignments. Here, she said she hasn’t felt a desire to connect with any professors. Frank decided she wanted to attend an HBCU in October 2016, weeks before the election of President Donald Trump. As the environment at her predominantly white high school became increasingly stressful for her, Frank said the idea of attending an all-black institution became more appealing. While Carter knew she wanted to participate in the HBCU Exchange Program since her freshman year, she worried she wouldn’t be able to as her responsibilities piled up.   In sixth grade, Carter decided she wanted to become a doctor. She hopes to eventually open a clinic in Los Angeles for underserved people of color. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ so after that I was pretty much gung-ho for Howard,” Frank said. “I didn’t grow up around a lot of black people, but when I got to Howard it was very easy to slip into the community.” Carter’s mother is a nurse, which she said inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. She decided to pursue a progressive degree during her junior year at USC and attended summer courses to make sure she could graduate on time. She is also a USC Spirit Leader, a student worker at Dornsife School of Letters, Arts and Sciences and a member of African Americans in Health and Alpha Kappa Alpha, a majority-black sorority founded at Howard in 1908. “Because I am black, surrounded by other black students … it’s like everybody is rooting for each other,” Carter said. “It’s amazing … I’m really enjoying the experience.” “I wanted to get that experience of being around more black people that were like-minded,” Carter said. When the time came for Adrianna Carter to go to college, several factors drew her to USC: financial aid, strong sports teams and a push from her mother. Now set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in global medicine, Carter said she wouldn’t have it any other way. Carter’s academic adviser, Lila Mendoza, said she was impressed by Carter’s determination to participate in the program. While Frank said she missed California and is enjoying her classes, she said she sometimes experiences imposter syndrome, since only 5.6 percent of USC students are black.   Carter said Howard’s smaller class sizes — usually 10 people or less — have helped her connect with professors and classmates more than she could at USC. Howard away from homelast_img

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