DSU Then and Now – “Moving on Up”

Anaya Balkcom

Over time, our culture, as well as our institution, have evolved. Like the famous theme
song to the hit comedy, “The Jeffersons,” Delaware State University has “Moved on up.”

On July 1, 1993, Delaware State College was legally changed from a college to a university. Last week, I
was honored to interview DSU alumni and current students to discuss DSU life during their
enrollment here. Join us as we embark on a journey through the progression of this institution.
Delaware State College was home to alums such as Dr. Mark Still ’96 and Tamika Jones
’99. A few years later, Delaware State University became home to alums such as Latoya Howell
’00, Keisha Smith ’99, and Natasha Balkcom ’00. I was able to discuss the changes in our
university more in detail with current students Aaliyah Robinson ’25, Quaseem LaRue ’25, and
Jevanta Wallace ’25. During these interview, we discussed the changes in campus life and the
impact that DSU had on each individual. Captured through the eyes of past and present students,
we can fully understand the flourishing culture that helped Delaware State College become
Delaware State University.

Friends that referred to themselves as the JJC (Jean Jacket Crew) est.1996

First, we will travel back to when Del State was a College and alumni Tamika Jones ’99
and Dr. Mark Still ’96 were enrolled. To better understand this institution, a set of questions were
posed to each individual.

Question: What was the culture and environment of this campus when you attended?
“The culture was very close. There used to be, of course, arguments on campus with
different people from different areas because then a lot of people separated themselves, so you
had a group from D.C., a group from Philly, a group from New York and they always separated
themselves on campus. But when we went off campus, then everyone kinda came together.” Dr.
Still remarked.
Although this was the case decades ago, after discussing the topics with current students,
we are given a look into the shift in cultural dynamics. When I discussed Dr.Still’s response of
1995 culture with our current student, I asked if the climate was similar and if students were broken up
into groups according to their hometown. Aaliyah Robinson ‘25 stated, “I feel like it’s very
diverse…I have a friend from New York, I have a friend from Michigan, I have a friend from
Philly, and Delaware so I feel like my friend group is very diverse and I have a mix from each
As the college developed into a university, it maintained its ability to stay consistent with
its culture. Whether I was interviewing alums or current students, they both concluded that DSU provided a compassionate, family – oriented atmosphere.
When asked about the campus culture, alum Keisha Smith ‘99 said, “I would say that we
were like a family. When I say that, it’s like once you found your group of friends, they became
more like family.”

The JJC years later still carrying their bond of friendship

Question: How has the campus changed since your enrollment at DSU?
As times have changed, Del State has not only seen an intertwining of cultures but an
uptake in students. Jevanta Wallace ‘25 stated, “This year, I have seen a very huge increase in the
student population in terms of long lines in Conrad and traffic while going to classes, that
definitely has changed since last year.”

Question: What is it like to be a student living on campus?
Another aspect of college life that DSU also maintained was its active spirit among
campus life. I was fortunate enough to discuss student life on campus with current student
Quaseem LaRue ‘25 and receive his perspective on the matter as well. Quaseem stated,
“Everybody is always engaged in events and activities such as telfar Tuesday or DSU drip cam,
there’s always something on social media that the students are really engaged with.” In today’s
culture, social media sparks engagement, but in the prior years engagement was sparked in other
forms. Alumni Natasha Balkcom ‘00 gave us a closer perspective into previous student
engagement, stating, “During my time at Delaware State University I would go to the canteen
which was located in the MLK building, it was fast food and we would hang out right in front of
the MLK building. The MLK building consisted of one floor with an auditorium which held our
parties sponsored by student clubs every weekend.” Places such as the cantine, student center,
and an area known as “The Circle ” were all areas that you could find alumni in the previous
decades. I was even informed that DSU operated as a drive on campus. In our present day, we
are now a walk on campus with cars operating along the perimeter of the buildings.

Question: How was life living in the previous Tubman Hall?
Some of the buildings on campus were also given the opportunity to evolve along with its
culture. While Latoya Howell ‘00 attended Delaware State University, she resided in the
dormitory known as Tubman Hall. During our discussion Mrs.Howell ‘00 painted a clear picture
of dorming in Tubman during 1996, “If you will, compared to the other dorms it wasn’t the best
dorm to live in. They had fold out beds so you had to fold your bed in and out to sleep. However,
living in Tubman, since it was one of the smaller dorms for the most part, you kind of knew
everyone and that’s where I pretty much met all of my friends in Tubman Hall.” After hearing
multiple recounts of life in Tubman, from sneaking into the dorms after curfew, to water fights,
angry dorm mothers, and such close quarters, it is no wonder why friends turned into family.
Hearing the previous set up of Tubman was somewhat shocking when thinking about
how Tubman is currently viewed. I enjoyed hearing the contrast in living from Tubman in the
prior decades, to discussing its current status with Aaliyah Robinson ‘25. “My freshman year I
did hang out in Tubman, because as you know each floor has its own hang out section. A lot of
people hung out up there and connected their xbox and play station to the Tv’s…it’s kind of like
a mini version of the MLK.” Tubman Hall now has multiple floors, study areas, hang out
sections, Dunkin Donuts, permanent beds and in suite bathrooms. Some may wonder if the
connection between students in Tubman “THEN” was stronger than the connection of students
in Tubman “NOW”.
As times changed, the one aspect that has been unwavering is the effect DSU has on the lives of
its students.

AKA’s 1996 Homecoming Step Show

Question: How has DSU impacted your life?

One commonality found while interviewing the past and present students of DSU was
their love for Delaware State University. This school has impacted thousands of lives for the
better and it shows in the way my interviewees discussed the school. When asked how DSU
impacted your life, Tamika Jones ‘99 displayed her HBCU pride through and through. “It has
shown me that I have to walk into my purpose, go forth and serve people, love the people and
just cultivate my dreams and also to be a family to people and be kind.” Throughout the multiple
interviews, each person spoke with a tone of passion and pride as they discussed the university.

Upon entering this school, I instantly felt a sense of pride for this university, one reason
being this has been my dream school for as far as I can remember. However, after writing this
article I found a new sense of pride. One stemming from knowing that I’m attending a university
that helps and encourages its students to be the best version of themselves. When you attend
Delaware State University there will always be a possibility of change, whether it is a change in
appearance or student life. Nevertheless, I have no doubt in my mind that no matter the change,
whether big or small, it will not waiver the compassion and grace possessed by the students of

Categories: Culture, Features, HBCUs

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