Dr. Hakim J. Lucas: Advocating Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Dr. Hakim J. Lucas
Dr. Hakim J. Lucas | President & CEO | Virginia Union University

With a rich history and remarkable legacy of creating world-renowned leaders, Virginia Union University is a top historically black university. The university boasts of developing its students into scholars, leaders, and lifelong learners in a global society.

The picturesque Virginia Union University campus, located on 84 acres in the heart of Richmond, highlights historic architecture while providing comprehensive undergraduate and graduate education. A heavy emphasis on moral values and ethics is a guiding element of the university’s educational program, and students are encouraged to participate in activities that promote self-actualization.

Dr. Hakim J. Lucas, the President, and CEO of the university, is a major supporter of student-driven initiatives and student and faculty participation in developing and implementing the university’s strategic plan. He promotes Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and fights to assure their long-term viability. He is a transcendent leader who has chosen to advocate for social justice through education. As a result, he participates in several advisory councils and organizations.

An Illustrious University with a Rich History

From Virginia Union University’s inception in 1865, it was designed to give newly emancipated freedmen an opportunity for education and advancement. The first classes were held inside the Lumpkin’s Jail, a former slave jail also known as the Devil’s half-acre, according to the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS). Mrs. Mary Ann Lumpkins, the owner, rented the venue for the classes. Lumpkins was a former slave who inherited the estate from her late husband, a slave trader. ABHMS eventually established four institutions, which later merged to form the “Union” that is now known as Virginia Union University. Richmond Theological Seminary, Wayland Seminary, Hartshorn Memorial College, and Storer College are the colleges that were merged together.

On February 11, 1899, the inaugural Founders’ Day was marked by a groundbreaking ceremony at the current site of Virginia Union University in front of Kingsley Hall, and the first classes began on October 4, 1899. The campus was designed with nine “noble structures” made of Virginia granite to give it a distinct look. Pickford Hall, Kingsley Hall, Coburn Hall, Martin E. Gray Hall, Baptist Memorial Hall, Industrial Hall, and the “Power Plant” are the seven original remaining structures.

The School of Arts & Sciences, The Evelyn Reid Syphax School of Education, The Sydney Lewis School of Business, The School of Latin American & Caribbean Studies /Universidad, The University College, The Graduate, Global Campus & Professional Education, and The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology are the seven academic schools that makeup Virginia Union University today. Education, business, social activism; politics and government; media; sports and entertainment; ministry, sciences, and the military are among the university’s prominent graduates.

University’s Philosophy

Virginia Union University is fueled by a commitment to excellence and diversity and its African American legacy. It aims to provide a loving, intellectually challenging, and spiritually rewarding learning environment and encourage students to acquire strong moral principles to succeed and become scholars, leaders, and lifelong learners in a global community.

Virginia Union University’s objective is to improve liberal arts education, teaching, research, science, technology, continuing education, civic participation, and international experiences through a wide range of educational possibilities.

VUU is a premier liberal arts urban institution of higher education and a national center of excellence for student preparation and leadership development for the future.

Virginia Union University strategically works toward four goals: Student Success, Academic Excellence, Entrepreneurial Enterprise and, Brand Prestige. It is guided by five fundamental principles to deliver on the promise of a Limitless Future. They are Innovation, Spiritual Formation, Integrity, Diversity & Inclusion and, Excellence Each principle is essential to its ability to provide a best-in-class educational experience for students, faculty, and staff.

The principles aid its community in understanding the right path to fulfilling our institution’s mission. In conjunction with the principles are the university’s Noble Values.

Innovation and Inclusion

At Virginia Union University, they consistently search for and create growth opportunities that forge groundbreaking research, state-of-the-art technology, or a top-of-the-line curriculum. They welcome and encourage new ideas and processes that positively impact experiences.

As a faith-based university, they welcome the regular practice of prayer, worship, silence, and mediation that matures one’s relationships, values, and life purpose, leading to ongoing spiritual growth and transformation.

The university values its commitment to fairness, honesty, and truth reflected in each person’s words and deeds while holding itself accountable for its words and actions.

As one of the nation’s oldest HBCUs, the university team allows diversity in thought, perspective, and embodiment, trusting that they are stronger when various voices, traditions, and experiences are present. They value inclusivity and promote a safe campus with dignity, respect, and compassion.

They provide the highest quality of experiences and interactions while remaining flexible, responsive, and open-minded in developing and delivering programs, services, and facilities committed to exceeding what it means to be best-in-class. Virginia Union University has also partnered with Apple as part of its smart campus launch.

Creating An Impact

Virginia Union University wants its students to:

  • Perform Better
  • Achieve Faster
  • Live Socially Responsible
  • Be Ethically & Ethnically Conscious
  • Achieve Generational Wealth 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a growing need for flexibility within the organization, requiring the university to change its business model of education. The 21st-century student needs more educational options. Some students prefer to take the traditional educational route by living on campus, attending in-person classes, and pursuing a four-year degree. Other students are looking for other options, such as virtual courses and two-year programs that, upon completion, will allow them to graduate with certifications in high-demand fields. At Virginia Union, they want to cater to the ever-changing needs of those they serve.

The Driving Force

Virginia Union University follows a Lean Six Sigma philosophy of improvement to eliminate waste and function as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The work culture at Virginia Union University is divided into work, Writing, Assessment, and Accountability. They have seven divisions across the university which Vice-Presidents lead. They are Academic Affairs, Administrative Services, Talent Management, Business Affairs, Enrollment Management, Institutional Advancement, Student Affairs, and University Relations. Each division gives a weekly report with updates on the work being done within their area and completion status.

They also have a strong culture of writing about their strategic plans, successes, challenges, and lessons learned, this aids in historical reference to the work being accomplished and standard operating procedures. Assessment is done through 30-Day plans submitted by all employees so that executive leaders can track the progress of their goals for each division. The vice-presidents also submit monthly reports based on the employee success and challenges recorded in the 30-day report. VUU also holds meetings with the Board of Trustees three times a year.

The Best Is Yet to Come

The university’s goal is to be recognized as a ‘Best-In-Class’ institution by 2025. That means working to become one of the nation’s best Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), ranking in the Top 10 of HBCUs, preparing students, and developing them as scholars, leaders, and lifelong learners of a diverse, global society.

Advice to Budding Entrepreneurs

As a leader, it is important to empower those that you lead. Dr. Hakim’s model of leadership is servant leadership. A transcendent leader guides those they lead from behind. Like a shepherd guides flock, a transcendent leader does not walk in front of the flock but guides from behind to keep the flock moving forward. A transcendent leader in a transcendent organization continuously grows in professional maturity, allowing their self-awareness and professional awareness to exist and grow together to ensure that the organization’s vision and mission are realized and achieved.