Adriel Hilton to receive scholar award from N.C. College Personnel Association

Whether affirmative action policies are still relevant and why black males lag not only their white counterparts but also black females in educational achievement are among the questions driving Western Carolina University faculty member Adriel Hilton’s award-winning research.

Adriel A. Hilton

Adriel A. Hilton

An assistant professor and director of Western Carolina University’s College Student Personnel Program, Hilton has been selected as the 2014 Outstanding Professional Contribution and Distinguished Scholar honoree for the North Carolina College Personnel Association.

He has been an author or co-author on nearly four dozen articles on topics related to black males in postsecondary education, black graduate education and historically black colleges and universities. In addition, he has served as an editor for two books and co-author of eight book chapters.

Part of what motivates him are the needs he has witnessed in higher education today, he said.

“This research is important to the field of higher education and beyond as the United States continues to become more diverse,” said Hilton in a statement published on his website about his research. “Government leaders as well as colleges and universities will want to better understand the impact on diversity of substituting race neutral admissions for the more traditional affirmative action policies.”

Another part is personal.

“As an African-American male, I am also interested in the African-American male achievement gap – the causes and remedies,” said Hilton. “I look forward to further exploring ways in which public policy and higher education can improve the quality of life for Americans.”

A native of Miami, Hilton was inspired to attend Morehouse College at a young age because it was the alma mater of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as well as NAACP leaders Julian Bond and Jamal Harrison Bryant, who he met while serving as president of the Miami-Dade Youth Council of the NAACP.

“I was sold a dream of the ‘Morehouse Mystique,’ which I experienced as a student and now a ‘Morehouse Man,’” Hilton said.

He also knew firsthand some of the challenges that African-American students face. While an honors student at a magnet high school, he submitted an English assignment early only to have the teacher claim later that he had not completed it, contact his parents and school officials, and note that “young black men do not complete assignments early,” he said.

“Weeks later she found the assignment in her desk drawer,” said Hilton. “At that point, I became more determined in all that I do to try to make sure that my work is, indeed, of quality.”

Hilton went on to earn three degrees from HBCUs – a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance from Morehouse College, a master’s degree in applied social science with an emphasis in public administration from Florida A&M University and a doctorate in higher education focused on administration from Morgan State University.

Helping propel his research and pursuit of higher education forward was a mentor, Patricia Green-Powell, past vice president of student affairs and now interim dean of the College of Education at Florida A&M University. Green-Powell introduced him to the academy and challenged him, and he started research that would continue through his doctoral studies. His dissertation, “The Perceptions of Administrators Concerning the One Florida Initiative,” won awards including the 2009 Outstanding Doctoral Student award from the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education.

Donald Mitchell Jr., assistant professor of higher education at Grand Valley State University, said Hilton’s research and presentations are impressive, and he is proud to partner with him on several recent projects.

“Dr. Hilton does not do research for research’s sake,” said Mitchell, who supported Hilton’s nomination for the NCCPA award. “He is a true advocate for creating change and shifting campus climates for college students through his work. That is a common thread in his over 100 books, articles, book chapters and presentations related to communities of color and diversity issues in higher education and student affairs contexts. Dr. Hilton has and will continue to have an impact on his university community, the broader higher education community and beyond.”

Before coming to WCU earlier this year, Hilton served as assistant vice president for inclusion initiatives at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, and his responsibilities included advising and providing support and resources related to diversity and inclusion to members of all levels of administration, faculty and staff. He also acted as liaison to GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, Women’s Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center.

Prior to working at GVSU, he was executive assistant to the president, chief diversity officer and assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees at Upper Iowa University as well as an adjunct faculty member at UIU and at the University of Northern Iowa.

Hilton is currently working with colleagues across the country to edit a volume exploring diversity issues at HBCUs, which is due out this spring.

In connection with the NCCPA honor, Hilton will be the keynote speaker and receive the award at the 2015 NCCPA Research Symposium to be held in Wilmington on Friday, Feb. 13, and will be recognized at the 2015 American College Personnel Association conference in Tampa in March.

For more information, contact Hilton at or 828-227-2115.