Jackson State University Political Science Professor Bessie House-Soremekun, Ph.D., recently received the 2021 Huntingdon College Alumni Achievement Award. The award recognizes Huntingdon alumni who are distinguished in civic, political, or educational activities or service. Up to three awards are given annually.
“I was deeply humbled to receive this very prestigious award. It is always nice to be appreciated and valued for your accomplishments, and it was a wonderful experience to be back at Huntingdon once again for this important occasion,” said House-Soremekun, who graduated magna cum laude from the college with a B.A. in English.
The professor has held several administrative appointments, such as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at JSU, interim chair of the Department of Political Science at JSU, and the director of Africana studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Senior Vice President for Institutional Development and Alumni Relations at Huntingdon, College Anthony J. Leigh, Ph.D., described House-Soremekun as a “pioneer” and “dynamo.”
“She was among the first Black students to enroll at Huntingdon,” and she has been blazing a trail by inspiring and empowering people ever since,” said Leigh. “Her influence has been felt worldwide, and she has used a number of roles in higher education to advance African American studies, civic engagement, global entrepreneurship and sustainable development.”
Leigh addressed how House-Soremekun has positively impacted Huntingdon by making several online masterclasses available to their students and establishing the Bessie Annie Fannings scholarship in memory of her grandmother.
House-Soremekun has held a storied career in which she created and exercised oversight of five entrepreneurial centers, which include the National Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., the Center for the Study and Development of Minority Businesses at Kent State University, and the Entrepreneurial Academy of the Cleveland Empowerment Zone, and the Center for Global Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Collectively, these centers produced award-winning research and provided business training classes using a business training module that she created for more than 400 individuals. Through the work of these centers, numerous businesses were established and/or expanded in Northeast Ohio.
She is the author/editor of 8 books, which include “Class Development and Gender Inequality in Kenya: 1963-1990”; “African Market Women and Economic Power: The Role of Women in African Economic Development”; “Globalization and Sustainable Development in Africa”; “Gender, Sexuality and Mothering in Africa”; “Confronting the Odds: African American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio,” 1st and 2nd Editions; “Yoruba Creativity: Cultural Practices of the Modern World”; and “African American Entrepreneurship: Philanthropic Giving, Self-Help, and the Struggle for Economic Empowerment,” which is under contract with Indiana University Press. She has also published many journal articles and book chapters in top journals and her fields of expertise.
Through the years, she has written and received more than 24 grant awards, totaling almost $1.5 million from various funding organizations, including the Shell Foundation, the Federal Government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Cleveland Empowerment Zone, the Cleveland Foundation, the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Employee Ownership Program, Kent State University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana Humanities, the Mahoning Youngstown Community Action Partnership, and others.
She has been featured in numerous publications for her work and received a host of accolades and awards for teaching, research, service, community and civic engagement, and organization of international conferences. Some of these awards include, among others, the Special Recognition Award from the Executive Director of the African Studies Association on behalf of the Board of Directors; the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mothers on A Mission; and the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nigerian Community of Greater Cleveland.
House-Soremekun received her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in international studies at what is now the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.