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Historic sign - Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee

What Everyone Should Know About Fisk

Founded in 1866, Fisk University is the oldest institution of higher education in Nashville, Tennessee and will celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2016. Fisk received a charter for the first chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society on a predominantly black campus in 1953. Fisk’s outstanding faculty and students continue to enhance the University’s national reputation for academic excellence that is validated year after year by the leading third party reviewers, as well as by the pool of talented applicants and the large percentage of alumni who complete graduate or professional degrees and become leaders and scholars in their fields.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Programs

Fisk’s longstanding legacy of excellence is reinforced by its accomplishments in the 21st century, especially in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Business disciplines. Fisk remains the only historically black college or university (HBCU) ever to win the prestigious R&D 100 award, and to date has won four.

The Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program has produced five Ph.D. graduates in the past three years in physics, astronomy, and materials science, disciplines in which African Americans and Latinos are underrepresented. As of 2006, no U.S. institution awards more master’s in physics degrees to African-American U.S. citizens than Fisk, which is also one of the top ten U.S. institutions awarding master’s in physics degrees to U.S. citizens of any ethnic background. In 2012, the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program graduated five Ph.D. recipients in the physical sciences and is on track to graduate this number each year. This is ten times the national average for physical science Ph.D. programs.

In September 2012, the National Science Foundation released its most recent study ranking U.S. higher education programs by their expenditures in research and development.  Fisk University’s research in the physical sciences ranks in the top 3 percent while Fisk’s overall research ranks in the top 8 percent among all U.S. universities and colleges. 

Department of Business Administration

The Department of Business Administration has a reputation for producing alumni who hold top positions in their fields. These include entrepreneurs George Russell Curtis, Sr. ’56, Karl Turner’77 and Jacquelyn Denton Alton ’66, sports agents and executives Carl Poston III ’77 and Kevin Poston ’81, Music World Entertainment Founding CEO Mathew Knowles ’75, hospital system executive Mark Chastang ’74 and American Hospital Association Chairman John W. Bluford III ’71. 

Among the many young alumni who have begun to make their marks are risk analysts Jenise Burks ’11 and Jordan West ’10, financial services professional James Horton ’06, accounting executive Dominique D'Antignac-Bell ’97, social media strategist Rob Wingfield ’00, foreign services officer William Campbell ’07, and human resources professional Johnathan Montgomery ’99.

The department’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization regularly wins regional competitions for their innovative projects that make a difference in the Nashville community while developing them into socially responsible business leaders. Fisk holds membership in the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). The Department of Business Administration offers a minor in music business through a collaborative agreement with Belmont University. In addition, Fisk offers a joint program with the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. In five years, students earn a Fisk B.S. degree and a Vanderbilt Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree. 

National Rankings

In Forbes’ 2013 rankings of the 650 Top Colleges, Fisk University ranks #188, the fourth highest ranked institution in Tennessee, ahead of the University of Tennessee, Belmont University, Christian Brothers University, East Tennessee State University and Tennessee State University.  Fisk also ranked #134 among all private institutions in the nation and #34 among all institutions in the South. Fisk is the highest ranked historically black college/university on the list.

The 2013 U.S. News & World Report’s "Best Colleges and Universities" ranked Fisk in Tier One at #145 of more than 1,400 Liberal Arts Institutions in the United States. Only three HBCUs are ranked in Tier One.  Fisk is ranked #5 on the list of "The Best Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)."

The Washington Monthly, September 2012, ranked Fisk as the "#1 Liberal Arts HBCU in Research" in its "Top Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities."  Fisk ranks in the top 6 percent of the 254 leading liberal arts institutions based on social mobility, research and service. 

For the 20th consecutive year, the Princeton Review included Fisk on its 2013 list of "The Best Southeastern Colleges."

Fall 2012 Enrollment

Enrollment is 620, a 16 percent increase over last year and the largest growth in six years. The average GPA for the Class of 2016 is 3.33, which is higher than the average GPA of 3.15 for the previous class.

Fisk’s entering students’ average SAT score is 1622, which is higher than the national average SAT score of 1500 and of 1272 for African American college entrants.1  Students’ average ACT score is 21, which is higher than the national average of 17 for African American college entrants.2 

Among Fisk’s Class of 2016, biology is the most popular major, followed by business, psychology, physics and chemistry.

Student Outcomes

Fisk’s Fall-to-Fall persistence rate is 84 percent. The national average persistence rate is 57 percent, and the average persistence rate at other Tennessee institutions is 51 percent.

Fisk’s six-year graduation rate is 59 percent. The national graduation rate was 56 percent in 2009, which is the latest available number from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Over 17 percent of Fisk students are selected for internships, which is above the 9 percent national average for internship placements on college campuses.3

Sixty-one percent of students who earn a Fisk degree enter graduate or professional school within one year of their graduation, ahead of the national average of 23 percent.4 

Fisk’s 2013 graduating class included six students who were inducted into The Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Annual Fundraising

Fisk alumni participation over the seven-year period, ending June 30, 2013, averaged 21.25 percent (the national average alumni participation rate for all colleges and universities is 20 percent).  Fisk alumni contributed a total of $ $9,649,265.41or 28 percent of the $35,124,550.81 in private gifts raised over the same seven-year period.

Over the past seven years ending June 30, 2013, Fisk Trustees donated 18 percent of annual fundraising revenues. Fisk Trustees contributed a total of $6,301,221.74 or 18 percent of the $35,124,550.81 in private gifts raised over the same period.

Fisk scholarships represent the second greatest source (32 percent) of student financial assistance while federal student/family loans provide the greatest source of student support (46 percent). Federal grants are the third greatest source (14 percent) of student support.

1 College Board (CEEB), 2012
2 The ACT Profile Report, 2012
3 National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2012
4 National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2012
5 Voluntary Support for Education, 2011 
6 Fisk University Fact Book 2011-2012