HBCU Futures Conference illuminates the ‘Support for HBCUs’ conversation 

HBCU alumni association presidents receive awards at the 2023 HBCU Futures Conference: (l-r) Norfolk State University National Alumni Association President, Tony Harrison; North Carolina A&T Alumni Association, Baltimore Chapter President, Dylan Gunn; HBCU Advocate Founder, Angela Jones; Morehouse Alumni Association, Washington, DC Chapter President, James D. Gaston, III; Alabama State University Washington, D.C. Metro Alumni Chapter President, Brian Howard; UDC National Alumni Society President, B. Marion Grayson, Jr.

HBCU alumni association presidents receive awards for their important work for their HBCUs

The 2023 HBCU Futures Conference (HBCUFC23) was held recently at the University of the District of Columbia with more than 1,000 students attending either virtually or in person from historically Black colleges and universities across the U.S. In addition to the many speakers and panel discussions for HBCU students, HBCU alumni, faculty, staff, and advocates were able to glean valuable information from various sessions curated just for them. 

One of the panels for HBCU alumni featured HBCU alumni presidents, who were graduates of Norfolk State University, Alabama State University, Morehouse College, University of District of Columbia, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The alumni presidents gave a synopsis of the many positive and significant achievements they have made during their tenure as president of their alumni associations. They also provided a glimpse into the future plans by sharing their goals, hopes, and dreams for their beloved HBCUs.

UDC trustee and alumni representative, Barrington D. Scott, JPMorgan Chase & Company Community Manager Joel Gamble, and All-American: Homecoming actress Shelli Boone were among the more than 50 speakers covering topics such as Rescuing History: HBCU Campus Preservation Initiatives; Real World Solutions: Preparing for Post Graduation Through Experiential Learning; Graduate School Funding and Limiting Student Loan Debt; Financial Health Education: A Money Matters Workshop with JPMorgan Chase; From Franchising to Brand Development: Adapting and Thriving in Business; Reel Success: How HBCU Students Can Have a Brilliant Future in Film & Television; and the Pitch:HBCU startup competition.

“This has been a wonderful weekend here,” said Barrington Scott. “I’ve just been so glad to see all the HBCU representatives coming and learning some things and taking some information back; and have students grow and become productive individuals in their fields,”

On Student Success Day of the conference, Career Conversations and Financial Health Education were topics covered by JPMorgan Chase & Co. These conversations can lead to an HBCU student finding an internship, a fellowship, or a job after graduation. JPMorgan Chase also offers the Advancing Black Pathways (ABP) Fellowship Program. According to jpmorganchase.com, it is “a six-week paid; full-time summer fellowship held in select JPMorgan Chase offices.” The website also state that, the “ABP Fellowship Program is designed to attract undergraduate sophomores who are interested in early exposure to financial services careers and committed to the advancement of individuals from underrepresented groups in this industry. The ABP Fellowship Program is seeking sophomore students, including, without limitation, Black students, who are interested in exploring career opportunities at JPMorgan Chase. We are looking for dynamic individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to help us grow and position our businesses for the future. All sophomore students who are interested in the Fellowship Program, regardless of background, are welcome to apply.” 

HBCU alumni and student entrepreneurs were also able to pitch their businesses or business ideas at Pitch:HBCU during the conference. The 10 finalists who pitched their startup businesses and ideas during the 2023 HBCUFC23 included:

Lucretia Williams and Alanna Watkins, Cosign

Cosign is an AI-powered platform for business searching by using an affinity-based recommendation system that connects customers with small e-commerce apparel brands while simplifying the review writing process and detecting false reviews.

Jace Watkins, Kouture Xpress

Kouture Xpress makes beauty and hair care products accessible and convenient on college campuses via vending machines.

Zion Melson, learnmutiny

Learnmutiny utilizes AI and data science to service startups by sourcing qualified, diverse, and reputable technical talent.

Kwame Terra, bEHR Health

bEHR is a community-based healthcare company using a comprehensive real-time health score algorithm to predict, prevent, and reverse chronic diseases from plaguing the Black community.

Leah Hernandez, Muse

Muse Inc. provides holistic resources for BIPOC writers, publishing culturally relevant adult fiction and nonfiction literature and providing curated support through distribution services and literary experiences.

Chineme Elobuike, Deeper Skin

Deeper is a body coverage brand that’s good for your skin and upgrading self-care.

Sarah Noel, Nasci

Nasci is a digital skin consultant and an e-commerce platform, to deliver POC-friendly skincare and advice to those who need it most.

Leslie Winston, Monocle

Monocle is a social reading platform that merges the joy of reading with the power of community. Reading is made social by allowing notes to be shareable directly within your e-book, presenting opportunities for readers to organically connect while reading.

Janae Walker, DataPro

DataPro is an innovative data interpretation software designed to empower users of all backgrounds to harness the power of data.

Destiny Wesley, Measure Me

Measure Me is a seamless 3D body scan platform that converts consumers measurements across brands and deploys Black & Latino tailors to make customized adjustments. 

“I had an amazing time at the HBCU Futures pitch competition…” said Lucretia Willams, pitch competition participant. “It was so nice to see the HBCU alumni pitching ideas and it was great to be in the space of such a communal environment.”

Last year’s winner of Pitch:HBCU, Alston Clark, returned to participate on the panel, From franchising to brand development: adapting and thriving in business. Clark shared his recipe for the success of his business, Zion Roar, which creates and distributes healthy sea moss drinks.

Ten students who attended HBCUFC23 virtually and in-person were selected to receive laptops or $500 book scholarships; twenty students were selected to receive $250 book scholarships; and the winner of Pitch:HBCU, Monocle, snagged a $10,000 prize.

“First, I was honored to be able to pitch,” Winston said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity. Secondly, this is my first time at UDC which is an HBCU, so it was nice to be on campus surrounded by energy and history that is committed to the growth of Black communities.” Winston is planning to use the $10,000 grand prize to support the Monocle team and release a public beta so the platform can reach bigger audiences.

“Since we ramped up Pitch:HBCU virtually in 2020, during the pandemic, we have seen the competition become more serious,” said Angela Jones, founder of The HBCU Advocate and Pitch:HBCU. “HBCU students and alumni are now realizing that they can have it all; they can graduate from an HBCU, start a business after graduation or while they are still enrolled in their university, and even have a corporate career, if they chose that route. I think it is great that students and recent college graduates are not simply sitting around waiting for a corporation to recognize their talent. Today’s HBCU students and alumni are taking their futures in their own hands and making the best of the cards they are being dealt.”

“Corporations are going to wake up one day and realize that there is a whole generation of young independent business leaders who do not need them to survive. Then, what? All corporate recruiters should be knocking down the doors of HBCUs to find diverse candidates but many of the recruiters and company leaders are not aware of the immense value HBCU students and alumni bring to any organization,” Jones continues. “Show me a company whose recruiters are saying that they cannot find qualified diverse candidates and I will show you a company whose recruiters have not seriously considered recruiting at an HBCU.”

The many successes of the 2023 HBCU Futures Conference were made possible by the support of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the National Science Foundation, and The HBCU Advocate. For more details on all that was offered at HBCUFC23 or to get information about participating in HBCUFC24, visit hbcufuturesnow.com.

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