Bluefield State University student named 2023 White House’s HBCU scholar 

By: - July 24, 2023 6:00 am
A woman wearing all black stands with her hands on her hips in front of double doors.

Patrice Sterling, an upcoming junior at Bluefield State University, has been named a 2023 Historically Black Colleges and Universities Scholar. (Patrice Sterling | Courtesy photo)

Bluefield State University student Patrice Sterling has been named to the White House’s 2023 Historically Black Colleges and Universities Scholar Program.

Sterling was one of 102 undergraduate, graduate and professional students from 29 states and countries to be selected. She was the only student who was selected from West Virginia. 

“I was excited but also shocked. I wasn’t expecting it,” Sterling, 23, said. 

Sterling, who will begin her junior year this fall, is originally from Jamaica and moved to West Virginia in 2021 to attend Bluefield State University. She is studying computer science with a focus on cyber security and plans to work in the tech industry.

The U.S. Department of Education last week announced its ninth cohort of HBCU Scholars under the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity. The competitive award recognizes “their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement and much more,” according to the news release

HBCUs are historically black colleges or universities that were established prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 whose principal mission was and is educating Black Americans. 

“Our 2023 HBCU Scholars are talented students who embody the culture of excellence and inclusion championed by our nation ’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a news release. 

The scholars will serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, the U.S. Department of Education and their respective HBCU. They’ll also receive professional and personal development opportunities. 

The HBCU Scholar program partners with NASA to provide opportunities for the cohorts to develop “ideas to commercialize technology derived from NASA intellectual property that can improve their campus and surrounding communities.”

Sterling said she is looking forward to using the scholar recognition to advocate for more resources for her university. The state’s Higher Education Planning Commission renamed the school from a college to Bluefield State University in 2022.

She is also looking forward to learning from her fellow HBCU scholars. The group of scholars are enrolled at 70 HBCUs across the country. 

“I’ll be learning from all of these people who are trying to change the country,” Sterling said.


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Amelia Ferrell Knisely
Amelia Ferrell Knisely

Amelia is an investigative reporter for West Virginia Watch. Her coverage regularly focuses on poverty, child welfare, social services and government.