Under the auspices of William Paterson University (WPU) in Wayne, NJ, the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Program was founded in 1988, by Dr. Sherle L. Boone, Professor of Psychology at William Paterson University. It was established as a residential summer program for high-achieving African-American and Latino-American students attending secondary schools in New Jersey.


The program was guided by the following objectives:
  • To foster the development of leadership potential 
  • To sustain high levels of academic interest and performance,
  • To increase the visibility of WPU in communities with relatively large African-American and Latino student populations
  • To enhance the image of WPU in the surrounding communities,
  • To increase the enrollment of African American and Latino students in New Jersey’s colleges and universities

However, as a result of diminishing financial resources in 1991, WPU decided to make changes in its community outreach initiatives to better serve the immediate needs of the institution. Consequently, the university created the Pre-College Academy to improve its recruitment and retention of students of color. Recognizing that the Du Bois Program was not founded to serve as a feeder program for WPU, it was moved to Livingston College at Rutgers University in 1992.

The initial support provided by Rutgers allowed the Du Bois Scholars Program to make steady progress toward maturity in many areas. However, because of inadequate fiscal support from Rutgers, the regular summer program was not conducted in 1993. Consequently, using a grant provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., graduates of the Program as well as participants in the 1992 program were brought together for a weekend retreat. During the retreat, they assessed the long-term effectiveness of the Program and developed strategies for enhancing the program’s effectiveness. The retreat was held on the campus of Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ, and its theme was “Creating Activist Scholars.”

Moreover, the data suggested that the program’s mission could be best achieved if the program operated as a private non-profit organization.
Data gathered from program graduates at the retreat indicated that they perceived significant improvement in themselves that sustained over the years as a result of having participated in the Scholars Program. During the retreat, several workshops were conducted, which yielded a comprehensive report for strategic planning. Information obtained from the 1993 retreat, along with an analysis of survey data and reports obtained from students, parents, faculty members and observers from 1988 through 1992, clearly indicated that the Du Bois Scholars Program was on target to achieve its objectives. Moreover, the data suggested that the program’s mission could be best achieved if the program operated as a private non-profit organization.

In 1994, the Program became the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute and moved to the campus of WPU as a private nonprofit tax-exempt organization. The change of the organization from a program to an institute reflects a more comprehensive organizational structure with new opportunities to expand and to better achieve its mission. The Institute includes a board of directors, which establishes and monitors operating policies.

Since the privatization, the Institute has become a multifaceted organization consisting of the following components:

1991 Du Bois Fellows Mentoring Academy
1994 William M. Phillips Jr., Lecture Series
1995 Walking Together: Partnership with Jewish Youth
1996 Du Bois Business Academy
1996 Fellows Academy
1998 Du Bois Prep Plus Academy
1998 Du Bois Leadership Academy
2000 Du Bois Education Workshop Forum for Parents
2001 Claude C. George Global Education Academy
2002 Science Academy
2007 Pre-Med/Neuroscience Academy
2007 Engineering Academy
2009 Junior Achiever’s Academy

Privatization of the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute also allowed for out-of-state students to participate. This development contributed to a steady increase in size and diversity of the student population from 1995 to the present.

During the summer of 2000, the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute moved onto the campus of Princeton University.
In January 2000, Dr. Richard Hope, who was Vice President of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation at Princeton and also a member of the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute, deliberated with representatives from Princeton University to create a partnership between the Institute and University. During the summer of 2000, the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute moved onto the campus of Princeton University. This development was a major milestone in the evolution of the Institute. As a result, there has been steady growth in both out-of-state and in-state participants. Since its arrival at Princeton University, several Princeton graduate students and Postdoc Fellows have both taught in the Institute and worked on the residence staff. Moreover, several of our former W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars are also Princeton University alumni. By plan and design, the Institute’s student body, faculty and staff have become increasingly more geographically and ethnically diverse.

Dr. Du Bois’ teachings and writings remain central to all aspects of the Institute’s operations.
While significant changes in course offerings, personnel, student population, and non-academic activities are introduced each year, the centrality of focus in the overall operation of the Institute remains unchanged. Dr. Du Bois’ teachings and writings remain central to all aspects of the Institute’s operations. All facets of the Institute – academic, administrative and residence life – are intimately linked, and members of the faculty and staff share ideas and perform as a team.

Faculty members, for example, employ a team approach in selecting W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars and refining the curriculum. Members of the board work together to refine the goals and develop new directions for the Institute. Consequently, the growth observed in the Institute has been characterized by stability, continuity and coherence.

The philosophical underpinnings for the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute were derived from following teachings and writings of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois:

history 5As Du Bois notes, “It is from the top downward that culture filters. The Talented Tenth rises and pulls all that are worth saving up to their vantage ground. This is the history of human progress.” African-Americans and Latino-Americans must focus on and educate their more talented members to maximize their potential for political, social and economic success. By supporting initiatives that accentuate the positive and reinforce the strengths in our communities, we can produce healthy and effective change.

Many problems that have resulted from urban decay can be remedied not only by attacking the problem, but also by strengthening the solution. The leadership required for alleviating these problems will most likely come from the community’s most talented individuals. It is easier to build on strengths than weaknesses; therefore, the development of each child’s leadership and scholarly potential will be achieved by focusing on cognitive and emotional strengths.

“The correct answer to a question is of less importance than the process of analysis whereby an individual derives the answer.” The development of a youth’s leadership and scholarly potential can be more effectively attained by a curriculum structured for intellectual acceleration rather than remedial instruction. Self-knowledge, high motivation, and good skills are important prerequisites for effective leadership and academic success.