White House Appoints Dietra Trent Director of HBCU Equity Initiative

Trent is a Hampton University grad and Virginia's former secretary of education. She steps into a position that has been vacant since President Joe Biden took office.

March 1, 2022 · Updated on May 6, 2022

Edited by Brenna Swanston
White House Appoints Dietra Trent Director of HBCU Equity Initiative
Higher Ed Policy
Photo by Jeff Greenberg / Contributor / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

  • The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs was founded in 1980.
  • The program has been without an executive director since President Joe Biden took office, drawing some criticism from advocates.
  • Dietra Trent brings to the role decades of experience in higher education.

A White House department working to advance educational equity and opportunity through historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) has a new leader.

The White House and the Department of Education (ED) named Dietra Trent executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs. The program has been without an executive director since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

Dietra Trent.
Image Credit: Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Education

Trent, pictured right, brings to the role decades of experience in higher education. She served as Virginia's secretary of education from 2016-2018. She also served as the state's deputy secretary of education from 2006-2010 and 2014-2016.

Most recently, Trent was the chief of staff and interim VP for compliance, diversity, and ethics at George Mason University.

Trent has experience at the federal policy level as well. She previously worked in the office of Congressman Bobby Scott, according to a statement ED emailed to BestColleges. Scott is now the chair of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Trent earned her bachelor's degree in sociology and criminal justice from Hampton University. Her master's and doctoral degrees in public administration and policy came from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Trent worked to spare HBCUs in Virginia from budget cuts by acquiring state funding for student success centers, securing more state funds for financial aid, and guiding the schools out of accreditation warning statuses, according to ED's email statement.

Trent joins the White House Initiative after a turbulent February for HBCUs. The month started with a series of bomb threats targeting HBCUs across the country. Threats persisted through the last week of February. The FBI in a Feb. 23 statement said it was continuing to "aggressively investigate" those threats.

As the initiative's director, Trent will lead efforts to highlight and uplift HBCUs and their students through the HBCU Scholar Recognition Program.

Many applauded Trent's appointment, but some took issue with the Biden administration's delay in naming someone to this position. Leonard Haynes III, a previous director of the White House Initiative under President George W. Bush, told "Diverse: Issues in Education" that the delay could make Trent's job more difficult and pose issues for HBCUs.