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Lina McCord ambassador Bridget Sisney (center) joins AU Jubilante choir members during 20th anniversary celebration of Africa University in Zimbabwe. UMNS photos by Kathleen Barry.

McCord Scholar prepares to give in return


Bridget Sisney graduated from United Methodist-related Dillard University this month with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry, but her next step in life is taking her far away from the academic framework of science.

"I'm currently applying to graduate programs and divinity schools," said Sisney, a native of Jackson, Miss. She credits this shift in direction to her four-year training as a Lina McCord ambassador, a program funded by the United Methodist Black College Fund.

"I can tell you everything about the human body, fungus and bacteria, but I cannot tell you about the literary roots of the Bible. I'm missing that part."

Sisney said that becoming an intern and ambassador in the Lina McCord program compelled her to look within herself for a deeper understanding of her core principles and values.

The Lina McCord scholars, selected from the 11 historically black United Methodist colleges and universities, are chosen by their chaplains and presidents. The student ambassadors are named for the fund's longtime executive director, the late Lina H. McCord.

Fund helps keep tuition down

Sisney is a Lina McCord ambassador and a 2013 graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans. A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.
Sisney is a Lina McCord ambassador and a 2013 graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans. A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.

The Black College Fund, established by the 1972 United Methodist General Conference, provides support for operations, programs and capital improvements at the denomination's historically black colleges. The fund allows the institutions to keep their tuition and cost low. Seventy percent of Black College Fund students receive federal Pell Grants, indicating their families earn less than $40,000 a year. On some campuses, the average family income is even less. For example, at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, the average family income is $29,000. The students at the historically black schools represent people from all ethnic backgrounds.

"Students from the historically black colleges and universities simply have a desire to better themselves and their families," said Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard. "They need our help. The support from United Methodists fundamentally changes lives and futures of these students."

This year, Lina McCord interns will visit annual conferences in West Ohio, Illinois Great Rivers, Baltimore-Washington, Western Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, Memphis, Iowa, East Ohio, Alabama West Florida, Kentucky, Upper New York, Susquehanna, South Carolina and Peninsula-Delaware.

Sharing success stories

"Lina McCord interns and ambassadors are critical to helping annual conferences in The United Methodist Church see where their money is going," said Cynthia Bond Hopson, staff executive for the Black College Fund and Ethnic Concerns at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Black College Fund

About 16,000 students are enrolled at the historically black institutions related to The United Methodist Church. Learn more about the Black College Fund.

"Historically black colleges and universities are still relevant and important in the life of the church. This program gives these students skills and an opportunity to share their success stories with United Methodists who have generously supported the Black College Fund."

Sisney will work this summer with Teach For America, a nonprofit that recruits college leaders to work with children in poverty. She says her connection to The United Methodist Church has led her to this opportunity.

"It is a chain reaction," she said. "I was able to get my degree, and in turn, I've decided to teach children who have not had many opportunities. In time, they will be inspired to go to college. It all starts with the people of The United Methodist Church believing in us."

*Underwood is a communications consultant based in Yukon, Okla.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5473 or