Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette is not only the President and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University, the only HBCU located in Austin and its oldest institution of higher learning but proves that women really can do it all! She is a dedicated mother, wife, and engineer – and still has time to indulge the part of herself that loves music, dogs, books, and champagne!

In honor of Black History Month, we talked to the doctor about her accomplishments, the importance of HBCUs, and how the pandemic has affected Huston-Tillotson University and its students.

Can you tell us about yourself and your position at Huston-Tillotson University?

I staunchly believe from my firsthand experience as a child reared in Cleveland, Ohio, education is the great equalizer and not an option. Since my 2015 arrival in Austin to serve as President of Huston-Tillotson University, I have truly been a woman on a singularly focused mission—ensuring any and all barriers to my students’ success are obliterated. My unwavering commitment to this mission has resulted in Huston-Tillotson University forging strong partnerships with companies such as Apple, Tesla, Bank of America, and University Federal Credit Union. I proudly serve on the boards of Austin Community Foundation, Leadership Austin, Austin Transit Partnership, Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Austin Area Urban League.

How has the pandemic impacted Huston-Tillotson University?

Undeniably, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Thus, as Austin’s only Historically Black College and University, the pandemic has unequivocally altered the lives of our students, our faculty, our staff, and the lives of their respective families in unexpected and myriad ways. The faculty and staff of Huston-Tillotson University worked collaboratively and tirelessly to lift our entire university online in only two weeks, ensuring classes and all student support resources from our Downs-Jones Library to the Center for Academic Excellence, Math Lab, Writing Center, Counseling Center, and Disability Services were available virtually for our students in support of providing an excellent and seamless academic experience.

How has your engagement been with the student body?

Huston-Tillotson University communicates and reinforces our “Persistence Is Power” clarion call by intentionally and consistently engaging our genius generation where they are online via our university’s official social media channels, adopting Canvas as our university’s learning management system, our university’s recent campus-wide migration to Microsoft 365 services, and launching our Ram Connect program to supply all students with a Surface Pro 7 laptop. These aforementioned avenues have enabled Huston-Tillotson University to maintain our dynamic and robust student engagement.

What else would you like to share about Huston-Tillotson University?

Huston-Tillotson University values our outstanding partnerships with Austin’s corporate and faith-based institutions. These treasured partnerships champion the hard work, and the heart work performed every single day, here at Huston-Tillotson University while simultaneously illustrating an African proverb that has defined my HT tenure, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Working together, we will continue to transform the collective lives of our world’s most precious resource—members of our genius generation—for only banded together will we all go far.

Learn more about the magic of Austin’s oldest institution of higher learning and only HBCU and the programs implemented by Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette during the pandemic by following their website and official social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

All images courtesy of Hutson-Tillotson University