Dr. Tony Allen gets it: He sees the value of building relationships between academia, corporate America and the community. He’s held prominent roles in all three. Allen has served as provost of Delaware State University for just over a year, and last month he was appointed chair of the Education and Skills Development group for the Greater Kent Committee (GKC).
Last April’s release of an economic analysis of Kent County sparked a call to action. Now the GKC and the Kent Economic Partnership are working to increase regional economic opportunities. Allen’s appointment came following a conversation with Linda Parkowski, the executive director of the Kent Economic Partnership.
“I’m of the 100 percent belief that Linda is on to something and Kent County is on to an opportunity for growth,” he said. The group comprises leaders from academia from around the state.
“We don’t talk as deeply as we should and how we’re training students for jobs that don’t even exist here,” he said.In the meantime, Delaware State University is seeing its highest enrollment ever. The university hopes to fully digitize by 2020. “We need to start acting like the world we’re training our students to be in,” he said.
Allen has realigned one of the more prominent colleges housed within the university — that of health and behavioral sciences — to foster a greater multidisciplinary approach. Health care was among the areas
of improvement cited in April’s report.
Allen acknowledged his humble beginnings. He said strong mentors and educational opportunities helped him rise. The latter was a catalyst in his role as founding president of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, where he fought for educational equity. (Later, through his second nonprofit, Public Allies Delaware, he would come to encourage 600 young adults to pursue public service.)
Regarding the former, he points to his decades-long friendship with civil rights activist Jim Gilliam, formerly of Wilmington, who passed away in 2015.
“He helped me connect the dots through various sectors of my life,” he said.