Center for Black Studies director goes home after 10 years

Anne+Edwards%2C+former+director+for+the+Center+for+Black+Studies%2C+in+2020+thanking+everyone+who+participated+in+the+Art+and+Soul+street+painting+event.

Northern Star File Photo

Anne Edwards, former director for the Center for Black Studies, in 2020 thanking everyone who participated in the Art and Soul street painting event.

By Caleb Johnson, News Reporter

After 10 years at NIU, Anne Edwards has left her position as director of the Center for Black Studies to return to her alma mater Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Edwards worked for six years in Career Services at NIU. In 2018, she was asked to be the acting director for the Center for Black Studies and ended up staying on full-time for four years.

“Deciding to leave after such a long time and just such strong relationships that I have built and the success and the work we’ve been doing, it was a very hard decision,” Edwards said.

While she will miss being at NIU, Edwards said she wants to be closer to be with family and community.

Edwards will be director of the Black Cultural Center at Purdue University. She said her time at NIU has been the perfect experience to prepare for her new job, and she looks forward to starting her new position.

WHERE THE CENTER STANDS

While NIU hasn’t hired Edwards’ replacement, it has appointed a senior consultant, LaVerne Gyant. Gyant was the former director for the center and professor in the department of counseling and higher education; she also started an alumni mentoring program to African American students to connect with alumni mentors in the College of Education.

Edwards explained that the rest of the team is still in place to help with the transition while looking for a new director: Christopher Mitchell, associate director of retention programs, and Gaylen Rivers, assistant director of programming.

“I was happy for her because she was a transformative leader, so she led with a mindset of be ready, be ready for transformation, be ready to leave and to direct and to prepare all us staff to be successful,” Mitchell said.

A RESPECTED LEGACY

Mitchell said Edwards was good at promoting an atmosphere of success and preparing for whatever came.

“We are not losing her, I don’t want to say we lost her; rather, we gained another resource at another institution,” Mitchell said. “It was never a deficit in Dr. Edwards’ loss, she helped us in being prepared for greatness.”

Mauve Kazeze, a senior psychology major, said the center was the best place that they’ve been in the past three years, and that Edwards always made them feel safe and respected at the center.

“It was a little weird to know that the person that’s been leading the place is going away, but I like the fact that she is going on to bigger and better things,” Kazeze said.

Edwards said she was grateful for her time at NIU and that, for her, the students were what she will miss the most.

“The students are the most hardworking, the most genuine – for me the students make it worth it, and seeing them be successful has been my exciting part of being at NIU,” Edwards said.

For Edwards, the decision to leave NIU was a difficult one and not one she took lightly. The formal decision was announced by NIU in October.

“In the end my goal is to help students thrive, and grow to become a better version of you, and to help them be successful – and NIU is part of that journey,” Edwards said.

LOOKING FORWARD

The staff at the Center for Black Studies will continue to focus on diverse programming, innovation and progressiveness, Mitchell said. He said that the center will continue to honor the legacy of what Edwards and the programs she created.

One of the programs that the center will be promoting is a study abroad program called Trans-Atlantic Experience, Mitchell said.

In the past, participants have gone to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Barbados. This summer, they will be going to Ghana. The program aims to give students the chance to learn about the historical roots of the African American experience and the effects of slavery, colonialism and imperialism going all the way back to Africa. For more information, students can contact the study abroad office at niuabroad@niu.edu or the center at: CenterBlackStudies@niu.edu.