Forever Wildcat and FAMU Provost Dr. Allyson Leggett Watson ’98, Advocate for Educational Opportunities

Forever Wildcat and FAMU Provost Dr. Allyson Leggett Watson ’98, Advocate for Educational Opportunities

Dr. Allyson Leggett Watson (‘98) comes from a long line of Bethune-Cookman alumnae. 

“Growing up, I had the privilege of being immersed in the vibrant campus culture from a young age, attending events and celebrations that instilled a deep sense of pride and belonging,” she said. “My decision to attend an HBCU was rooted in a desire to be part of a community that celebrated and empowered African American excellence, and Bethune-Cookman stood out to me as a beacon of opportunity and tradition.”

Watson, who today serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, has dedicated her life to helping students like herself realize the transformative power of education — especially at historically Black institutions. 

“Attending [B-CU] shaped my perspectives by providing me with firsthand experiences of the transformative power of education within a supportive and culturally affirming environment,” she said.

Forever Wildcat and FAMU Provost Dr. Allyson Leggett Watson ’98, Advocate for Educational OpportunitiesCaption: Dr. Watson served as Miss Sophomore during her time at B-CU.

Early in her career, she focused her research on the representation of women and faculty of color in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in urban education. “I have encountered surprising findings that underscore the systemic barriers and biases present in these fields,” she said, noting that “the lack of representation can be attributed to … historical inequities, implicit biases in hiring and promotion practices, and limited access to resources and opportunities for underrepresented groups.”

Today, Watson is an advocate for faculty of color in K-12 and higher education and touts the importance of not only representation in the field but equity in leadership positions across the educational landscape. 

“Representation in education is crucial for fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion. Sustained advocacy and proactive measures will be necessary to ensure meaningful and lasting change,” she said. 

This is particularly true in Florida, where Black institutions are working hard to maintain the progress that has been made to increase the number of women and students of color with seats at the proverbial table of higher education. Watson anticipates that in the next five to ten years, leaders in higher education will need to be particularly intentional in their efforts to increase faculty and student diversity — not just in STEM, but in the field of education as well. These leaders, she notes, will need to be “driven by concerted efforts to promote inclusive practices and meaningful opportunities for our students.”

Though she is an advocate for historically Black institutions as vehicles of education and advancement for historically marginalized students, Watson feels it is important to preserve students’ ability to choose the educational environment that is right for them — and that is precisely why it is important for education leaders to heed the call and be intentional about defending those opportunities for students.

“Throughout my career, the guiding principle that has remained influential is the belief in the transformative power of education to create positive change,” she said. “We should learn that from the example of our institution's founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. I am inspired by the countless educators, mentors, B-CU alumni and advocates who have dedicated their lives to advancing education and a productive life for students and families in our country, and I strive to continue their legacy in my work every day.”