Mary Howard-Hamilton

Mary Howard-Hamilton

Professor of Educational Administration: Higher Education Leadership and Chair of Department of Educational Leadership

Dr. Mary Howard-Hamilton, PhD, knows she has a lot on her plate – but she can’t stop saying “yes” to new opportunities to educate, inspire students, and serve communities.

As department chair of Indiana State University’s Department of Educational Leadership in the Bayh College of Education, Howard-Hamilton plays a crucial role in providing creative opportunities for students to serve as school administrators, college administrators, and education leaders.

Each educational administrative program in the department involves mentorship and training in addition to readings and discussions. Many Indiana State graduates pursue careers as university presidents, chancellors, orientation leaders, admissions directors, residence life directors, provosts, K-12 school principals, and school district superintendents.

“I like to tell people that ‘what you see is what you get’ with our programs. We live up to our reputation. If you come to study at Indiana State, you’ll have the mentorship and training to succeed in your careers,” says Howard-Hamilton, who teaches students in the department’s hybrid educational administration and higher education leadership program.

Howard-Hamilton has adapted her teaching methods over the years to accommodate modern classrooms. While her students continue to read journal articles, she also assigns podcasts and Netflix series to help students to stay up to date with current trends in education. Class discussions focus on relevant topics, including female college presidents, Black women in higher education, education effects following the COVID-19 pandemic, and other subjects.

“I like for my students to search for the ‘aha’ moments when the learning material makes sense to what they see in the world around them. They read news headlines and understand what’s happening as they experience it in real-time,” Howard-Hamilton explains.

The education professor has been recognized for her teaching and research in higher education through numerous awards, particularly for her contribution to Indiana State. The University awarded her the Presidential Medal for Exemplary Teaching and Scholarship, and in 2015, she received the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research and Creativity Award.

“Each award is special and meaningful to me. It reminds me why I teach,” she says.

When she isn’t teaching in the classroom, Howard-Hamilton is actively writing about her research. She has published more than 90 articles and book chapters. She comments, “Most of my research focuses on minority students and how they can find their sense of belonging. I want to train the best student affairs and higher education professionals.”

Howard-Hamilton’s passion extends overseas as a consultant and instructor for the Student Housing Training Institute in Cape Town, Pretoria, and Johannesburg, South Africa. Along with other education professionals, Howard-Hamilton provides resources to train student affairs administrators and residential life directors in South Africa.

“South Africa doesn’t have student affairs programs. They don’t train people to be orientation leaders, provosts, etc. They don’t have that level of training. So, they ask us to come to South Africa and train these individuals,” Howard-Hamilton explains. She frequently takes students from Indiana State with her on these trips. “I learn so much from South Africans when I’m over there, too. I learn more about their culture.”

Mary Howard-Hamilton, a Black female professor, wears a red pantsuit. She poses in front of a railing in the atrium of University Hall in the Bayh College of Education.

Back in the Terre Haute community, Howard-Hamilton lends a helping hand in various organizations, including serving as the first Black person on the Board of Public Works. The board works alongside the Mayor of Terre Haute to approve contracts. During her participation, the board approved a monument in downtown Terre Haute honoring Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who became a prominent author and activist. Douglass visited Terre Haute at least 10 times in his lifetime.

“It’s important to be on community boards because we look deeper at the contributions of minorities and other under-represented individuals in the community and see how we can serve them,” says Howard-Hamilton. She shared a story of helping an elderly woman seek approval for a designated handicapped parking spot in front of her home. “At the end of the day, this work gives people hope.”

In January, Howard-Hamilton participated in a panel discussion at the Vigo County History Center celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The discussion focused on King’s quote: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”, a quote from King’s 1963 book, Strength to Love.

“The quote relates to service and how you can’t serve others unless you take care of three critical things: loving yourself, loving others, and being willing to sacrifice the things that society says you should be doing as opposed to looking at the needs of others. We will continue to struggle until we learn to love others,” Howard-Hamilton explains.

On the left, Dr. Kandace Hinton, wears a black trench coat. On the right, Dr. Mary Howard-Hamilton, wears a red pantsuit. Hinton points to Howard-Hamilton. They stand in front of a railing in the atrium of University Hall in the Bayh College of Education.

Dr. Mary Howard-Hamilton with her colleague, Dr. Kandace Hinton, in the Bayh College of Education.

She hopes her students at Indiana State—and the campus community—thrive on visionary ideas like King’s. She remarks, “When I came to Indiana State, I saw myself in the students. When I left home and went to college, I was looking for support. At Indiana State, we support our students and give them the tools for their future.”

As Mary Howard-Hamilton agreed, education is the key to everything in life, and great education begins with BLUE!