Alumni Testimonials

Donnebra McClendonMy experience in the Master’s in Science, Organizational Leadership program was absolutely amazing. As a full-time employee, mother, and wife, the program allowed me the flexibility to balance family and career while investing in myself through an unparalleled educational experience. When selecting a graduate school and program of study, there was no hesitation in my decision. I earned my undergraduate degree from Bethune Cookman, and Cookman will forever be my home. My professors were truly invested in my success and committed to delivering academic excellence. I am honored to use the experience gained from my time at Cookman to serve as the Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for a human management technology company. I have the pleasure of cultivating a workplace with leaders who are consciously unbiased and intentionally inclusive. As a lifelong learner I am continuing my education as a doctoral student, and I look forward to the opportunity to return to Cookman as a professor. I am dedicated to the adage, “Each one teach one." An investment in the education of others yields the greatest return.  Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune said, “ The whole world opened to me when I learned to read”, and in that same spirit, the whole world opened for me when I earned my degrees from Bethune Cookman University.

Hail Wildcats!

Donnebra McClendon, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Ceridian Corporation

Bethune-Cookman University Alumna Laila Darby Testimony


The Great Bethune-Cookman University was the driving force behind promotional career moves and higher education for Laila Darby.  She is currently seeking her doctorate degree in Business Administration with a minor in Management at the prestigious Saint Leo University and her anticipated graduation is May 2018. 

Apart from being a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), I wanted to be connected to a university that had a history that represented the rich culture of uplifting women to academic excellence.  When I reflect on the educational journey at BCU, I often think about the techniques the professors used to engage the students; the ability to have the students think critically of varies outcomes that they may encounter in their careers was substantial in my ability to seek promotions in my career.  When I obtained my Masters of Science in Transformative Leadership degree at BCU (c/o 2013), I understood my leadership style to be democratic.  My leadership style reflects the democratic influence that takes a participatory role with the members of the team.  This leadership style empowers the workforce with the guidance of the leader.

Laila joined the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) in May 2017 after a short tenure with the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Missouri (HAKC). She serves as the Deputy Director of the Housing Choice Voucher program and Client Services for HANO. 

She anticipates continuing her career in Low-Income and Affordable Housing and becoming a part-time Adjunct Professor in Business Administration or Human Resource Management once she completes her Doctoral degree.

Bethune-Cookman University Alumna Lawanna M. Hair Testimony

Lawanna M. Hair

My second master’s degree is from Bethune Cookman University’s Master of Science in Transformational Leadership (MSTL). I loved attending Bethune Cookman University for my MSTL degree. The professors were so helpful throughout the process and even afterwards. I really wish Bethune Cookman offered a doctoral program in this field.

After obtaining my MSTL degree, I was rewarded with a pay raise at my job. I was able to use what that I learned throughout the program for various areas within my job. The program taught me how to use different leadership styles with different people and in different settings. It helped me to understand more about my colleagues and the students that I work with. More importantly, it taught me how to be a better and effective leader.

I loved how the professors would call and check on you.  When I had experience a death in my family, a professor called me after a virtual class to check on me because she said I did not sound like myself. That meant so much to me. I have never in my life have a professor to check on me until I enrolled at BCU. This program was a game changer. I am doing great in my doctoral program because of all the skills I learned from this program.

Bethune-Cookman University Alumna Michelle Brown Testimony

Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown is a Business Developer and AEA with a Diversity and Inclusion called PRISM International, Inc, which focuses on consulting services, training programs, and products for leveraging diversity & inclusion, increasing cross-cultural effectiveness, and preventing harassing & discriminatory behaviors. Michelle’s focus within the organization is aimed at developing strategic strategies and processes to put in place within organizations, build and grow relationships with current and prospective clients, and help the organization reach an optimal level of processes and procedures.

As a Business Developer, her work entails tasks and processes to develop and implement growth opportunities within and between organizations and is a subset of the fields of business, commerce, and organizational theory. Michelle possesses a Bachelors in Psychology from Bethune-Cookman University, a Masters in Transformative Organizational Leadership, and is in the process of obtaining her Ph.D. in Industrial & Organizational Psychology. 

Prior to joining PRISM International Inc. Michelle was a police officer and Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) operator and is continuing to advance her personal career as a Business Developer and Co-Founder of her non-profit organization LEAD Ladies Inc., which is aimed at all female youth, ages thirteen to twenty-one years of age, both at risk and transitioning into adulthood and the real world. 

 “Obtaining a Masters Degree in Organizational Leadership from Bethune-Cookman University has allowed me to continue my educational goals by preparing me for a Doctorate (Ph.D.) program in a very specific field of interest. My Doctorate degree will be mainly applied to the field of organizational development within different organizations as well as the ability to apply the psychological aspect to those organizations business objectives and employees. I am able to continue my education with the flexibility of an online system usage because I have obtained useful skills and insights that prepared me for the next level as a result of undergoing the program in Organizational Leadership from Bethune-Cookman University.”

- Michelle Brown

Bethune-Cookman University Alumna Nicholas J. Solomon Testimony


Mr. Nicholas J. Solomon is a two-time degree holder at Bethune-Cookman University; graduating in 2006 with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice and again in 2008 with a Masters in Transformative Leadership.

Mr. Solomon, an Orlando, Florida native, is currently the director of the King Solomon Foundation (KSF). Founded in 2008, KSF is designed to serve as the model program for this population of youth and to impact change across the nation. KSF’s mission is to improve the quality of life of youth who face delinquency, abandonment, poor academics, and many other facets that decrease their chances of becoming productive citizens. 

Mr. Solomon and the King Solomon Foundation have been recognized by the City of Orlando Mayors Matching Grant program for their contributions in the community. He has been awarded The TRIO Achiever Award from the Florida Association of Education Opportunity Program Personnel, Inc. for his accomplishments and dedication to academic and personal excellence. Mr. Solomon and the King Solomon Foundation have been sought after by the White House and national leaders to take part in mentoring initiatives.

Mr. Solomon is also an advisor to the I.S. Hankins/F.A. Johnson Education Foundation in Orlando, the Director of Educational Activities for his fraternity, an advisor and mentor to the Young Men of Distinction Mentoring Program in Orlando, and an instructor and advisor to McIntyre Security Agency. Annually, he serves and supports other causes, such as, The American Cancer Society Relay for Life, March of Dimes/March for Babies Campaign and the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.

As a strong believer in leadership development, he has served over ten years in management with various organizations and higher educational institutions. Mr. Solomon served as a volunteer at an at-risk youth program in 2005 and has since dedicated his life to teaching, counseling and training at-risk youth. Since 2005, Mr. Solomon has served as the program coordinator of a Juvenile Residential Program, a juvenile probation officer for the State of Florida and as an academic advisor for the University of Central Florida.

Since 2006, Mr. Solomon has been both a member of Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He is currently studying Non-Profit Management at the University of Central Florida.

Bethune-Cookman University Alumnus Robert (Bobby) R. Gordon Testimony


Bobby is Vice President of Client Relationships at PRISM International, Inc., a WBENC-certified, full-service provider of innovative and proven consulting services, training programs products for leveraging diversity & inclusion, increasing cross-cultural effectiveness and preventing harassing & discriminatory behaviors. Bobby and PRISM serve 2 million plus employees in over 160 organizations in twenty countries on six continents.

As a dedicated seasoned diversity professional who leads with heart and passion, Bobby specializes in assisting organizations and individuals in achieving business goals by leveraging a diverse, energized and engaged the workforce. His portfolio of clients includes American Family Insurance, TIAA-CREF, Lockheed-Martin, University Medical Center (Texas), Chevron, Clorox, Universal Parks and Resorts, Homes, Shamrock Building, Blue Cross Blue Shield NC, ViaSat, CalPERS and Michelin North America.

Prior to joining PRISM, Bobby was a cultural diversity trainer with the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) where he developed, revised and conducted training for managers and senior military leaders in communications, organizational effectiveness and conflict resolution.

His DEOMI experience took him to over 30 states and US territories, and also throughout Germany and South Africa. Directly responsible for the needs analysis, instructional design, and leadership duties on diversity seminars for requesting civilian and military organizations, Bobby also served as a participating think tank panelist in developing strategies on increasing the diversity of the Army and Air National Guard. He helped to develop and design a human relation-training program for newly assigned DEOMI staff and faculty members.

After September 11th, he was tasked with co-moderating and developing a video to dispel myths and stereotypes about American citizens of Middle Eastern descent or Muslims. The film's purpose was to ensure that service members and their families who either appeared or were Middle Easterners or Muslims were treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. The film is used by the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Homeland Securities.

Bobby received his Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College and a Master’s of Science in Transformative Leadership from Bethune-Cookman University. He is a graduate of the Army’s Officer Candidate School. He is also a certified Equal Opportunity Advisor graduating from Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. Bobby lives in Daytona Beach and is an avid golfer and Harley Davidson enthusiast.

Bethune-Cookman University Alumna Damitria Frank Testimony

frank.jpgThe Transformative Leadership, now Organizational Leadership program provides life-altering leadership knowledge through critical-thinking and group discussion. I completed the program while playing Division I basketball, the lessons addressed in my various courses prepared me for leadership situations on-court and in my workplace and community after the competition.

Bethune-Cookman University Alumna Dr. Ashley Jennings Testimony

Dr. Ashley Jennings

Bethune-Cookman University sent me the acceptance letter that changed my life! As an undergraduate I experienced academic highs and lows as I struggled to overcome a learning disability, & later serving as a caregiver to my late father. At the time, I barely graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree but I never let that stop me from applying & inquiring with B-CU’s Masters of Science in Transformative Leadership program. With persistence & a sincere desire to succeed I was admitted into Bethune-Cookman University in 2011.

As I reflect on the extraordinary opportunities & blessings in my life, it is with great humility that I thank my professors in the MSOL program for allowing me to be authentic in my pursuit of knowledge & leadership. Through my experience, I was provided opportunities to reach back to my peers & prospective students by motivating & challenging their understanding of effective leadership in a world that is constantly changing. Simultaneously while I attending the program I worked full time at B-CU, & served on the National Board of Directors of my service sorority. Needless to say, that my exposure to the program not only influenced my leadership style but helped me to secure my interest in remaining in higher education & becoming an educator. In the summer of 2012, after graduation, I was fully aware that Bethune-Cookman University prepared me to continue my journey.

In Fall 2012, I entered Nova Southeastern University’ Doctorate of Education Organizational Leadership program. During my matriculation at NSU, the most rigorous work was focused on completing the dissertation which I felt prepared for based on the action research thesis & defense during my graduate program. B-CU equipped me with all the skills I needed to successfully earn my doctorate. While finishing at Nova Southeastern University I took another leap of faith & entered the University of Florida to pursue a Masters in Medical Science - Gerontology concentration with Geriatric Care Management Certificate.

Today, I am honored not only to be a 2018 40 under 40 recipient, assistant professor in aging studies, & entrepreneur. There have been many days when I’ve looked back on the journey & considered all the obstacles. Yet, one thing I am certain of, it was divine appointment that brought me to B-CU. I entered to learn…departed to gain the knowledge required, & I continue to serve my Alma Mater!

Hail Wildcats,

Bethune-Cookman University Alumnus Edrico Ambrister Testimony

EdricoAmbrister.jpgI cannot overstate how my experiences at Bethune-Cookman University have changed my life for the better. Not only was I able to obtain my Bachelor’s degree and gainful employment at B-CU, but I was also able to successfully complete my M.S. in Transformational Leadership. Ultimately, this degree set the foundation for where I am now and where the near future will take me. I’m proud to have completed my studies here! Through this program, I gained a clearer understanding of my personal leadership style and how I can use that to inform the ways I facilitate change in organizations and other professional settings. The instructors brought a wealth of knowledge and useful guidance that is truly unparalleled.

Now, as Human Resources professional, a Toastmaster, a motivational speaker, and more, I find myself relying on many of the core principles I have adopted from my time at B-CU and in this Master’s program. I feel more equipped to lead confidently and to make the hard-hitting decisions that need to be made. If I could do it all over again, I would. As a firsthand beneficiary of the myriad of challenges this program has to offer, I wholeheartedly give my full recommendation.

Marion KeyAs a proud recent graduate of the Master of Organizational Leadership program, I was attracted to Bethune-Cookman University because of its commitment to its online learning environment and the curriculum for organizational leadership aligned with my professional goals. The program was transformative. Even though I entered this program with over 30 years of professional experience, I came out of the program as a more productive leader and more knowledgeable about the impact I could make on my community based on what I received from this program.

Currently, I am the Director of Development at an educational non-profit in Pittsburgh, PA. I held this position during my matriculation in the program. What changed, however, was my approach to my engagement as a member of my organization’s leadership team, the way I can initiate or enhance community partnerships, and my ability to be a better writer because of the scholarly writing expectations of the MSOL program.

Recently, I enrolled at American College of Education to begin working on my doctorate in Curriculum Instruction with a concentration in Instructional Leadership. This was made possible through a partnership between BCU and ACE. Though the work is challenging, I am well- prepared, having the continued support of my BCU advisors, both of whom I have never met in person, as an active member of BCU’s alumni association, and the BCU community where the legacy of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune proudly continues.