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STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: SENIOR LAUREN TOLBERT NAMED A WHITE HOUSE HBCU SCHOLAR AND JOHN ROBERT LEWIS SCHOLAR

By: Clafin University

Senior Lauren Tolbert has been named a 2022 HBCU Scholar by the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Tolbert is an African and African American Studies major. She is among 86 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are being recognized for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement and much more.

The scholars are currently enrolled at 56 of the nations HBCUs. They were selected from a competitive pool of over 350 students. Applications also required the signature of their HBCU president or designated HBCU faculty, adding a level of prestige to this application process.

During her academic journey at Claflin, Tolbert served as the 63rd president of the Student Government Association, freshman mentor, and president of the Gamma Chi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

“The HBCU Scholars have dedicated themselves to learning and exemplify the talent that our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have nurtured for generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to supporting these leaders and I cannot wait to learn from them while they serve as ambassadors for the White House Initiative and their institutions.”

Over the course of an academic school year, HBCU Scholars will participate in training and cross-university networking opportunities. Scholars will also have an opportunity to work on issues specifically related to the HBCU community and participate in national and regional events with professionals from a wide range of disciplines.

“As an HBCU graduate I’m honored to announce our HBCU Scholars, our future leaders of tomorrow. At HBCU’s we are a family, we build each other up and we’re taught that we can do and be anything,” said Dietra Trent, executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through HBCU’s. “I look forward to supporting the growth of our HBCU family through the Scholar Recognition Program.”

A key feature of the HBCU Scholar Program is a partnership with NASA to foster innovation and opportunity for the cohorts. This partnership with NASA makes the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovation Tech Transfer Idea Competition (MITTIC), “Mini MITTIC” part of the HBCU Scholar Program. Through the Mini MITTIC program students will partner in developing ideas to commercialize technology derived from NASA intellectual property. Scholars will have the opportunity to present their IP ideas during the National HBCU Week Conference in September.

“The goal with Mini MITTIC is to provide the HBCU Scholars with an authentic experience while ensuring they leave with the foundational tools to utilize NASA intellectual property to create their own business concept and participate in the full MITTIC competition,” said Misti Moore, NASA’s Johnson Space Center MUREP Lead & MITTIC activity manager.

HBCU Scholars will also be invited to the 2022 HBCU Week National Annual Conference, on September 20-23, in Washington, D.C. During the conference, they will participate in sessions designed to engage a spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, and personal and professional development. Most importantly, scholars will have opportunities to engage with one another and showcase their individual and collective talent.

Program events are designed to enhance HBCU Scholars professional development and create post-graduation opportunities within non-profit, business, and federal agency partners to ensure that as a nation we remain globally competitive.

Tolbert was also selected to serve as a John Robert Lewis Scholar for 2022-2023. The John Robert Lewis Scholars & Fellows Program is designed for undergraduate (Scholars) and graduate students (Fellows) to examine Lewis’s nonviolent philosophy from a historical perspective; define its principles and strategies; and identify their applicability to modern times and movements, current issues, and everyday life.

Sponsored by the Faith & Politics Institute, the goal of the John Robert Lewis Scholars & Fellows Program is to build a network of young leaders who are inspired by the moral leadership of John Lewis, educated, and empowered to use King’s principles and strategies of nonviolence, and committed to applying these competencies to become changemakers in their local communities. The program enables students to learn from changemakers of history, contemporary nonviolence practitioners, and civil rights leaders. 

As a scholar, Tolbert will participate in two trips to Washington, D.C., in July 2022 and July 2023. She and other scholars and fellows will connect with representatives from national, state, and local governments, as well as businesses and nonprofits engaged in social impact work. They will also join members of Congress and other national leaders on Faith & Politics’ annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage in March 2023 and complete an oral history report. 

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