Program Director, Act 101/Gateway to Success
2019 Martha Washington Award Recipient Courses: Becoming a Life-Long Learner; The African-American Experience in Philadelphia; AU Blueprint; Words of Mass Destruction Advice to Students: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out. There are so many opportunities and resources. You belong here, and you can blossom at Arcadia.”
Service to others has always guided Dr. Angela McNeil, director of Act 101 and co-coordinator of the Gateway to Success Summer Bridge Program, from being an advocate and mentor for students at Arcadia University to working with the youth ministry at Grace Temple Baptist Church, where she’s First Lady.
She takes a more psychological approach to assisting others though, and describes it as understanding how others “tick”—their passions, their motivations, their struggles. With a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, a doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a certificate in Secondary Education Counseling, McNeil has spent much of her academic and professional career helping individuals recognize their strengths and supporting students who are struggling with personal, academic, and family issues.
Black Girls RUN!
Black Girls RUN! (BGR!) is a national organization created in 2009 to “encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority,” to counter issues with obesity. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S., and about four out of five African American women are overweight or obese. However, BGR! encourages all women to live healthy and active lives.
“I’m passionate about the education of the African American community and those from low-income backgrounds,” said Dr. McNeil. “My greatest reward in working in higher education is realizing that I’ve poured into someone’s life and helped them to change the trajectory of their future, because in higher education we don’t just impact that one person, we affect and change generations.”
As a first-generation college student in the master’s program at Radford University, Dr. McNeil experienced challenges as a woman of color at a predominantly white institution. She credits her mentor, Dr. Carolyn Booker, then-counselor and coordinator of academic retention at Radford, for assisting her through it, as she’s certain she otherwise would have quit.
“I want to do for other students what she had done for me,” said Dr. McNeil. “I want to be a presence and face for students of color.”
In 1991, Arcadia started the University’s Act 101 program and Dr. McNeil was hired as the coordinator of Minority Retention and Act 101 counselor, reporting to Academic Affairs. When her position was moved to Student Affairs, she transitioned to a director of Multicultural Affairs and Act 101 counselor. In 2000, Dr. McNeil left the University to pursue other interests in counseling and administration but returned in 2010 as full-time Act 101 counselor.
In the nearly 20 years that Dr. McNeil has been at the University, a highlight for her is attending the inaugural Preview trip in 1994, which took 150 students to London. She’s since traveled to Ireland, India, and South Africa through the University’s global programs.
Dr. McNeil in South Africa
“Students of color are less likely to study abroad,” said Dr. McNeil. “My experience on the first Preview trip was transformational. Since then, I’ve encouraged students of color to go abroad.”
Through a grant from the Joseph Alexander Foundation, Inc., Dr. McNeil has supported low-income students and students of color who could not afford to study abroad. She’s paid for passports and visas, funded Preview trips, and assisted with other costs associated with global experiences.
Through the Act 101 program, McNeil teaches students about success through study skills, time management, and emotional intelligence. In spring 2019, she taught “The African American Experience in Philadelphia,” a class she designed that explored the 17th and early 18th century when Blacks were both free and enslaved in Philadelphia. Last fall, she taught “Words of Mass Destruction,” a First-Year Seminar course created by Dr. Doreen Loury, assistant professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice and director of the Pan African Studies Program, who was on sabbatical.
Additionally, McNeil oversees the Knights for Nutrition Food Pantry and is a member of Staff Council. She was also part of the founding committee of the Black Alumni Association of Arcadia University. Last year, she served on the UKnighted Aspirational Committee charged with drafting a new vision statement for Arcadia. Outside of the University, Dr. McNeil is vice president of the Tri-State Consortium of Opportunity Programs in Higher Education, a not-for-profit association of volunteer members in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania that embraces state-supported educational opportunity programs in post-secondary education.
“Service has guided everything,” said Dr. McNeil. “As a Christian, I work to love and serve everyone, and that’s why I think I do my job well. It’s how I can meet with students on different levels, and why they feel they can open up to me.”
Dr. McNeil also has found calmness in running with Black Girls RUN! She recently completed the Philadelphia Marathon 8K and is training for the Philadelphia Hot Chocolate Run 15K in April. In November, she plans to do the Philadelphia Marathon’s half marathon run.
“Running has such positive residuals,” said Dr. McNeil, recalling the encouragement she received when she first began with Black Girls RUN! in 2013. She began walking with the group in September that year, and by June had completed her first 5K. “Before then, never in a million years would I have thought about doing a half marathon or marathon.”
The Knights for Nutrition pantry supports undergraduate and graduate students to avoid hunger by providing access to nutritional food so that they can focus on their studies and reach their academic goals.
The Tri-State Consortium of Opportunity Programs in Higher Education is a not-for-profit association of volunteer members in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania that embraces state-supported educational opportunity programs in post-secondary education.