The YARD — an HBCU platform for connecting tech, talent and culture to advance innovation, infrastructure and inclusion — will be making a stop at Tuskegee University on Friday, Aug. 23 as part of its current HBCU tour.
At Friday’s “pop-up” event — scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on “The Yard” outside Tompkins Hall — students can enter to win scholarships and internships by applying to The YARD’s THINK BIG NOW innovation pitch competition. Selected students will be invited to pitch their ideas at scheduled YARD pitch events. Winners will be awarded scholarships and internships, and receive mentorship and support to develop their ideas.
Erskine “Chuck” Faush, experienced media professional and CEO at FSE, co-founded The YARD to create new investment opportunities for students and employers through the use of innovation-focused pitch competitions, debates and immersive technology studios.
“We are going to develop content that will showcase technology and the budding genius that we know are at HBCUs, enhance career pipelines with talent who will go from the classroom to the boardroom, and celebrate the culture that is unique on every HBCU yard,” Faush said.
“We are excited to be hosting The YARD, which provides an excellent opportunity for students to showcase their entrepreneurial and technology skills,” said Tuskegee President Lily D. McNair. “Tuskegee students have been at the forefront of new ideas and initiatives in these areas, so we are pleased that they will have an opportunity to demonstrate these talents to The YARD.”
The name itself — The YARD — references the central gathering spot for students and alumni on HBCU campuses. For many employers, HBCUs are an untapped source of tech, talent and culture. At the same time, many HBCUs have limited funding for infrastructure and adequate facilities. The YARD matches student talent with employers for scholarships, internships and jobs, while generating economic growth through collaboration with HBCUs, business and community leaders.
imerge, an event Faush produces in Birmingham for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), served as the model for The YARD. imerge is the largest innovation and tech event in Alabama.
Earlier this year, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Birmingham’s Vulcan Materials Company announced its commitment to support academic excellence at HBCUs, particularly in the Southeast.
“A more diverse workplace benefits our organization by bringing new perspectives to the business. It advances productivity and performance, and improves our ability to appeal to a diverse marketplace,” said Darren Hicks, vice president of human resources at Vulcan Materials Company.
Faush and Vulcan partnered on a program at Benedict College in South Carolina and launched The YARD with a $1 million commitment to fund scholarships, internships and grants. In addition, The YARD partners with the Southern Region Minority Supplier Development Council based in New Orleans, and Loop Capital of Chicago.
“We’re empowering tomorrow’s generation today by creating new investment opportunities for students and employers that translate into a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and greater return on investment,” Faush said.
The YARD tour will continue throughout the fall at HBCU campuses across the Southeast. Pop-up and YARD pitch events will be held in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — including a pitch event on the Tuskegee campus Nov. 8-9 in conjunction with homecoming.