Dr. Gwendolyn M. Bookman has worked at several colleges and universities throughout her distinguished career – including Harvard University, which has 22,000 students, and Texas Southern University, which has more than 10,000 students.
But for the past 15 years, Dr. Bookman has taught at Bennett College, which is much smaller than those institutions and others at which she’s worked – and she feels right at home.
“Because Bennett is small, I have had the opportunity to contribute to Bennett in so many ways that I might not have been able to do at a larger institution,” Bookman said. “I was attracted to Bennett because it’s a small, liberal arts college, an HBCU, a college for women and it’s in my home state.”
Bookman, from Durham, North Carolina, is the chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology and an associate professor of political science, where she’s known for being actively involved on campus. Her petite stature belies her toughness.
“Dr. Bookman is steadfast when it comes to academics and ensuring our students are taught what they need to know both inside and outside the classroom to be successful,” said President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins. “She also speaks up about matters that are important to her and to Bennett as a whole. She is a champion for Bennett College and an asset to our campus.”
Bookman said she likes the fact that at Bennett students aren’t “numbers” and their voices can be heard. She also likes being able to give them one-on-one attention in the classroom.
“Our four academic priorities are cutting-edge communication, leadership, entrepreneurship and global acumen,” Bookman said. “I believe these are areas of knowledge and skills that a 21st Century college graduate must have to be competitive.”
Bookman has one adult son, Dobbin O. Bookman, director of Owner/President Managed Programs, Executive Education, Harvard Business School. She has two grandchildren, including grandson Dobbin O. Bookman, Jr., a Morehouse College freshman.
After completing her Bachelor of Science in psychology, with a minor in allied sciences, from Howard University in Washington, D.C., Bookman earned her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. She also took graduate courses in international politics, law and economics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
Interestingly, Bookman is the first black woman to serve as a briefing attorney for the Supreme Court of Texas.
Besides Harvard University and Texas Southern University, Bookman also worked at Howard University, Tufts University, Morris Brown College, Spelman College and Wellesley College before joining the staff at Bennett. At Harvard and Wellesley, her work was concentrated in affirmative action, equal employment opportunities and multicultural understanding, all very important to her.
“The world is becoming more and more interdependent,” Bookman said. “All of us must find ways to understand and appreciate those who are different from ourselves. Engagements in global affairs will remain a central component of my personal and professional endeavors always.”
Bookman, who has traveled and studied all over the globe, is the immediate past President of the Board of Directors of Sister Cities of Durham, an organization that according to its website promotes peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual and one community at a time.
When asked what she would change about education on a local, state or federal level if she could, Bookman didn’t hesitate.
“I am disturbed by the low level of English competency of many incoming college students,” she said. “Greater efforts need to be made to ensure students are graduating from high school able to communicate in spoken and written form at a higher competency level. I would change English instruction at the secondary level to increase this capability.”