This is Our Time: The Impact and Influence of HBCUs

Audio Description

What do Stacy Abrams, Kamala Harris, and Raphael Warnock have in common besides a penchant for politics? They are all graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)! In honor of Black History Month, James and his guests Adrienne Lance Lucas, Ronald Mason, Waymond Jackson, and Rodney Trapp focus on HBCUs' importance as hubs of leadership and entrepreneurship. In historical appreciation of the contributions of HBCUs to Black education and opportunities, a lively and informative discussion follows. Learn how you can best support these vital institutions and invest in HBCUs to keep their momentum going as they continue to produce and elevate Black talent.


00:00 - 00:31

If you believe in America and if you believe in American institutions, right, then you have to believe in the institutions that have held America together and that offer the highest potential to help America be America, which are historically Black colleges and universities. And so if you ask me what should happen and what the ask is, you know, it's to invest in yourself. And I'm talking to to Fortune 1000 companies now, invest in yourself and your future and the future of America by investing in HBCUs.

00:37 - 01:07

This is Changing the Trajectory. I'm your host, James Thompson, Bernstein's Head of diverse market strategy. Well, it's February 2021. Also known as Black History Month. And I'm happy to present an episode that will focus on HBCUs. When I think about the contributions to Black America, HBCUs, historically Black colleges and universities are at the top of the list. When you think about their influence on Black education, Black America, Black influence, Black everything.

01:07 - 01:29

And I'm happy to be joined by some great individuals who will help bring this conversation to life. So before I give them an opportunity to really share a little bit about their backgrounds and their unique perspectives on HBCUs, I'll just go around the horn real quick and give you all listeners an idea of who's joining me today. So first up, we'll have Adrianne Lance Lucas.

01:30 - 02:00

She's the president of Lance Lucas and Associates. She focuses on strategy implementation for nonprofits with a specific focus on high education and HBCUs. I'm also joined by President Ronald Mason, who is president of the University of the District of Columbia. Rodney E. Trapp, vice president of University Advancement at the University of District of Columbia, and also Waymond Jackson Jr., CEO of Ed Farm, an organization that cultivates change and promotes innovation in education.

02:01 - 02:23

So, Adrianne, first I just want to thank you for helping me pull this episode together. I think it's almost two years to the month that we first met in Atlanta. But let me turn over to you so you can share with the listeners a little bit about your background and then your unique perspective on how HBCUs have influenced us. Absolutely. Thank you, James.

02:23 - 02:56

While I run an advisory firm, as you mentioned, and our objective is to preserve, protect, position and actually propel, I'll use that term, given that we have Waymond on the phone, our HBCUs into an area where they can actually achieve and continue to survive and thrive. We focus on fundraising development, but also do turnkey operations just in bolstering operational excellence for HBCUs and other nonprofits.

02:57 - 03:09

My unique perspective right for HBCUs is number one, I'm a product of an HBCU. I attended Spelman College, majored in economics and then went on to Harvard Business School.

03:09 - 03:43

When you think about these institutions were established because we were denied the right right to be educated in the very, very beginning, African Americans did not have that right. These institutions were formed in order to give us that that same opportunity in America. And we have taken that opportunity and changed the country, whether it's by fueling the economy with the number of individuals who have come through our systems and the industries in which they work, it is changing the political landscape.

03:43 - 03:54

And you mentioned some notable HBCU graduates. We have Kamala Harris now who's in that top position at the White House, we have Stacey Abrams that have come through just on the political side.

03:54 - 04:25

But we really spanned all industries and facets along the way. So I will stop there. My unique perspective is looking at the products that come out of HBCUs, how we infiltrate other areas of the country to reclaim our stake and what really should have been ours in the beginning to establish more than an equal playing field in not just education, but in every industry. Thanks, Adrianne. President Mason, over to you. Yeah, my name is Ronald Mason.

04:25 - 04:58

I'm president of the University of the District of Columbia, the public institution of higher learning, in for the nation's capital. I'm a lawyer by training, Columbia Law, spent the first half of my career as a senior vice president and general counsel at Tulane University, predominantly White institution, and then made a conscious decision to switch to historically Black colleges and universities because I thought that was where my talents were most needed and could be best used. I've been president of Jackson State University, the Southern University system, and now my third

04:58 - 05:15

HBCU is the University of the District of Columbia. Let me turn it over to Waymond. James, thanks for having me on here. Great topic. And looking forward to the discussion. CEO of  Ed Farm, as you mentioned earlier, great organization.

05:15 - 05:38

We have this unique opportunity to have a funding partnership with Apple, started in Birmingham, was looked at as being something that was innovative, radically rethinking how we do education and how we address issues, especially issues on communities of color. And we expanded that work into this amazing space with historically Black colleges and universities.

05:39 - 05:55

I've had the unique opportunity over the course of my career to work deeply in workforce development and economic development for city work and then to chambers of commerce and such. And one of the things and kind of leading workforce development programs and policy work, and especially as it relates to economic development.

05:55 - 06:14

Now, you really saw where companies were always looking and saying we're going to go where talent is and that's what's going to drive our decisions. And then you started to see this shift as of maybe three, four years ago, where you start seeing companies kind of decide and say, well, we're going to actually place a little bit more focus on where diverse talent is located.

06:14 - 06:37

So we are in no way hating on north or west or the East Coast, but diverse talent lives in the South. I say that to say that my interest became really deep on the economic development side of selling place to companies and saying that if you really want diverse talent, then you should come to where that diverse talent is.

06:37 - 06:56

And then outside of that kind of movement, that's what we're doing now with launching Propel. If you truly want diverse talent and you should be building connections and relationships and meaningful relationships and pipelines into all HBCUs and letting them become where you find that diverse talent.

06:56 - 07:12

So glad to be a part of this. My unique perspective on HBCUs is that I am jealous of Adrienne because I am not a product of one. I'm not either. Don't worry about it, bro. Rodney, how about you? Thanks, James. My name is Rodney Trapp.

07:12 - 07:38

I'm the vice president for advancement for the University of the District of Columbia, and I'm very excited to have this conversation on a number of levels. One being, though I'm not a product of an HBCU also, one of the things that I had an opportunity to do when I did attend Wake Forest University was to take classes over at the same state university as well as North Carolina NT.

07:38 - 08:09

And my background has been in arts philanthropy, working with education equity organizations in terms of STEM and poverty fighting institutions, and now working for the wonderful University of the District of Columbia. And the great thing about this moment in time, we are celebrating our 170 year of being an institution in the District of Columbia, the only HBCU in the district.

08:09 - 08:29

And we've been at the forefront of education, equity, and social change for many years, but under a lot of different names. We started back in 1851 by an abolitionist, Myrtilla Miner, who established the first school in Washington, DC, to educate African American women.

08:29 - 08:46

And it was only later on that we actually got that designatio, HBCU. We were actually founded before there was even a term HBCU. But we've always been committed to doing this type of work. So glad to be here. And not to start an argument. Does that make you officially the first?

08:46 - 09:07

I'm just throwing it out there, not the first, but probably debatable. I want to touch on something. And, you know, Rodney, I appreciate you kind of giving that perspective. I think one of the last two times I spoke to Adrianne, we were just kind of, just kind of catching up on what's going on in the world. And I wrote this quote down and she said, this is our time.

09:08 - 09:25

And part of that was her acknowledgment of the role that Reverend Warnock and Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams, like the influence. We won't go into politics, but their influence is undeniable. And where they got their education is undeniable.

09:25 - 09:44

You know, I'll just throw this out there. Like, how do we continue to further the HBCU prominence, the recognition that we all think the institutions deserve, so we can continue to kind of churn out more talent, more influences like the three I just mentioned. I'll start by, one,

09:44 - 10:18

alumni need to really focus on helping to amplify that legacy and really, really claiming that history. Oftentimes you see folks going on to grad school or going on to medical school, and they they tend to highlight and emphasize their graduate degrees and not their foundation, the place that got them started, and oftentimes they did get started at an HBCU and then went on to some of the prestigious Ivy League universities.

10:19 - 10:42

But to be able to really highlight that and know the importance of putting that on your resume, putting that on your LinkedIn page and letting folks know that we're proud to be a product of an HBCU and it helps HBCUs, because a lot of folks don't know. They have no idea that this particular person was an alumnus of an HBCU.

10:42 - 10:59

So to start by just proudly claiming that history and being very bold and publicizing it. President Mason, let's hear your perspective from leading an institution. Yeah, let me pick up on something Waymond said on something.

10:59 - 11:02

And the quote was, this is our time, right.

11:03 - 11:37

You know, America really is in desperate need of talent. Any employer you talk to will tell you they cannot find talent. And part of the problem is that we have a system in America that actually destroys and stifles more talent than it produces. Because most of the talent in America is in disadvantage in Black and brown communities. But America doesn't know how to educate those pools of talent because it's designed to be a competition where only certain types of people win.

11:38 - 11:51

So that at the top of the pyramid, you have a recycled, basically White talent. And it's not all talented, but it's recycled in the sense that that's one of the top jobs are reserved for. And so it clogs up the pipeline.

11:52 - 12:12

But in order for that system to work, you have to make sure the other talent is not there to compete. And so if you put the role of HBCUs in that context, you know, we're just institutional reflections of Black people. And so we've always had the challenge of not having access to wealth. But in spite of that, much like Black people, we've always overperformed.

12:13 - 12:48

We've held America together at a time when it was trying to figure out what to do with with the talented Black people that it had but didn't know how to educate or didn't want to educate. And even today, if you go to the American Museum of African American History and Culture, you can see that in spite of all of the challenges that America has put before us, we still overperform. So why is this our time? Because I think employers are starting to understand that they have to figure out who the experts are at producing talent where they don't know how to find it and they don't know how to produce it.

12:48 - 13:19

And those experts have always been HBCUs. So, you know, when I was speaking of it's our time, I see it from the perspective of what you mentioned, President Mason. Right. We have this talent that has been in existence, but we also have an issue of branding and awareness issue for the country. The majority of the country does not realize the number of HBCUs that exist, the number of HBCUs that are focused on particular disciplines.

13:20 - 13:30

And so it helps. Yes, in having a Ross Brewer who will say, I attended Spelman and now I'm the second Black female CEO of a Fortune 100 company.

13:30 - 14:05

But I look at it as it's our time to bring all of those things together, not just having the corporations recognize the talent that's there. It's our responsibility to build awareness for the rest of the country. But it's also to tie and pull on the moral code that exists in this country because we have not done a good job, in my opinion, of holding the systems accountable for what fair share is that should be coming to our institutions in order for us to move forward.

14:05 - 14:31

So with that, I'd like to just hear what you all's perspective is on how do we do that? How do we begin to hold folks accountable for the things that should have been done in the beginning? My perspective, when you say hold them accountable, I do think that there is a self-interest that can be appealed to and ask this need for talent.

14:32 - 14:59

And so when I hear a Biden administration talk about increased investment in HBCUs, when I hear them talk about helping relieve the student debt burden, you know, when I hear them talk about having to pay more attention to what's always been the issues with the challenges in the Black community, I don't think it's out of the kindness of their heart. You know, I think it's because they've come to the conclusion that they have to figure out

14:59 - 15:21

a way to get the talent and we all are where the talent is, and so, you know, when we talk about the equity imperative at UDC, we're really talking about is our plan to help understand where the talent is, how to identify it and how to produce it, despite the challenges that America puts in the way of us being able to do so.

15:22 - 15:35

Adrienne, what I think is so great about what Dr. Mason just stated, especially from a talent perspective, is, yeah, and the thing about like this being our time, like that is really where you're meeting companies where they are.

15:35 - 16:07

And then there are so many unique programs and offerings and the flexibility and nimbleness that I think that you can learn and work with at HBCUs, that when a company is truly invested in something like that, when you can go and say, hey, you know, I can go work with 1500 students at this particular place and shift it in a way and provide the types of resources that specifically, you know, appeal to what it is that I'm trying to get out of, when they're serious about doing that.

16:07 - 16:42

It really is this moment of where I completely agree is not benevolent or anything like that. It is literally companies can't find talent and they're not finding enough talent, whether it's Stanford or re-entering the workforce. And that's also another place where I think that, you know, you start looking at institutions like HBCUs and being innovative and the role the HBCUs play within the community. A piece of that is who is everyone, especially in the African American community that's been affected by the recession, that lost job from '08, '09, and then now to COVID. What space could innovate

16:42 - 17:06

an HBCU play in reskilling workers, US alumni and getting them in a position where you develop a completely different pipeline into these companies for getting them the talent that they need. And when you can think about HBCUs and being in the space of big producers of that talent, when you start talking about the issues affecting Silicon Valley and people holding them to the fire, even Apple's fund allowance.

17:06 - 17:25

But you're saying that you're doing this in these communities, but this is what your workforce looks like. Well, when you, when you present to them now, this is the talent that comes out of the HBCUs and these are capabilities, it gives them that opportunity to say, we can develop this real pipeline into that.

17:25 - 17:54

And that's, that's part of a gap that we're trying to stand in. And even on the front side of what Dr. Mason is saying about the whole thing, going back to like the miseducation of the Negro, but just education systems at its core, not being what they need to be to educate people of color and communities of color. Look, I think providing access and opportunity is the biggest one, especially if you're very intentional. You know, I think, look, I don't work in the most diverse field. I work at an asset manager.

17:54 - 18:24

You can probably consider it a Wall Street firm. Right. And in financial services in Wall Street, we have to do much better. But I will say, an intentional mindset allows someone like me as an example to partner with some HBCU outlets. One of the things I brought to the firm, a relationship with Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Right. And, you know, one of the greatest experiences I've had and I participated in this probably 10 years now, which is the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Institute.

18:24 - 18:58

You've got 400 of some of the best, brightest talent across the country in one place. But part of this is, with whatever role we play, we need to do what we can to be intentional and bring those resources to bear. And look, at the end of the day, I don't like the notion that we can't find a talent. A lot of times organizations go to predominately White institutions that have 0.5 percent Black people. They've got to amongst themselves to find the best talent when there's nearly one hundred plus institutions that have that same talent.

18:58 - 19:29

So I really appreciate that. But for me, this whole equity and accountability starts with the intentionality of the people and the institutions themselves. James, do you think that you know, we've heard that long old argument, where are all the Black folks. Right. But I've sat in enough corporate meetings to know that a lot of them still are not aware of HBCUs. So to me, I still think that there is room for the awareness piece.

19:30 - 19:59

Well, there's two challenges. I think, you know, when you look at corporate America in general, if you are a senior leader in your firm, you are responsible for building out your practice. As an example, you are likely to go back to the schools you graduated from and those schools you graduated from are not the schools we're talking about today. So, you know, there has to be an acknowledgement that we are not showing up in a way to actually diversify those pipelines. And I

19:59 - 20:12

think that's a really big challenge. I think once you do look at HBCUs, there are the top 10 to top 15 to 20 that most people could name off the top of the head. But what about the other 80 or so?

20:12 - 20:34

So there has to be this acknowledgment, right, that we have to collectively build the awareness around the purpose of the institutions and invest the time to find where the institutions are and engage with the talent. We do, which is what Adrianne and Waymond do. And, you know, they're to be commended for those efforts.

20:34 - 21:02

And, you know, we say at HBCUs that we can do with a dime what other schools do with a dollar. And there's a lot of truth to that. But we need the day. And so I don't want to understate the need for investment in building the pipeline because we do need the investment. And I want to make that point. So any corporate entity that wants a sustainable pipeline over time is going to have to figure out how to help the HBCUs build the pipeline.

21:03 - 21:15

There's that, right. And then the second thing is, there is a statistic for you. You know, in the top 10 percent of the population, they control 77 percent of the wealth. And in the top 10 percent, 90 percent are White.

21:16 - 21:48

OK, now, if you assume that talent at birth is not distributed based on race or social status, then that means that about 30 percent of the people in that top 10 percent are not there because they're talented, that they have because they were born there. And so, you know, when you're talking about opportunities for people coming up through the pipeline, the first thing you've got to get through is those 30 percent of positions that they can't get into because their talent is Black, because they've reserved for people because of their birth, race, and social status.

21:48 - 22:17

You know, it's a historic and systemic challenge to rethink, repair, and rebuild the pipeline, but also to open up the opportunities at the end of it so that the talent that does rise has a fair chance to succeed. Absolutely. And we need to make the Fortune 5000 companies aware of that too. You know, most of them want the talent but they don't understand how they themselves have to be intentional about opening up the doors to that talent that they're looking for.

22:18 - 22:37

Hey, Rodney, let me come to you for a second. President Mason touched on the investment piece. And I think certainly now over the last maybe two years, certainly given 2020, there's a newfound celebration of money and contributions by way of major gifts. Right.

22:38 - 22:58

Which I think is an acknowledgment that individuals and institutions are really bullish on HBCUs, the role they play. Talk to us a little bit about what you are seeing in your role. Institutional advancement is a very critical role at every institution, but certainly for HBCUs. Absolutely, thanks, James.

22:58 - 23:13

One of the things you mentioned was the notion of intentionality and being intentional and seeking out HBCUs, Black-led organizations and Black-centered organizations.

23:13 - 23:39

What we're seeing is somewhat of a shift, but it needs to be more of a seismic shift and not a small minute shift to help reverse the underinvestment, the decades, the centuries of underinvestment in historically Black organizations to shift those resources, to begin now investing in Black-led, Black-centered institutions.

23:39 - 24:05

And so, from a philanthropic perspective of both from private philanthropy and corporate philanthropy, making sure that they are looking beyond just the institution that is doing good in the Black community, because oftentimes you have majority culture institutions setting up shop in Black and brown communities and providing resources.

24:05 - 24:35

And those institutions tend to be the ones that are getting the dollars from the major foundations. But when you have a Black-led organization is struggling and then not getting seen and not getting recognized. And so having that next level of philanthropy, being intentional about that is important. The other thing is, unconscious bias is very real. And a lot of people, it's unconscious, they're not aware of it.

24:35 - 24:45

And so in getting it, hiring practices and helping to understand, well, why aren't there more financial investment managers that are African American?

24:45 - 25:19

What are the biases that I'm bringing to the table in those interviews that are preventing me from thinking outside the box or coloring my perspective when I get a resume that comes from a school that I never heard of, or a public school as opposed to a private school, or is an Ivy League and they're not at Ivy League, it's poor quality. And I come in to those interviews with those biases and therefore, the candidate from that pool does not get elevated and they don't get selected.

25:20 - 25:45

So there's some soul searching that we have to do as industry leaders to begin to open up that door more. And I would say for those that aren't aware of what is institutional advancement and what does it do for our institutions, they are the strategic philanthropic arm of our institutions.

25:45 - 26:18

So they raise the money. It's a difficult role to be in because when you think about the historical elements that exist, we have outperformed from a talent standpoint. But the dollars that come in do not echo and reflect the quality of the talent that have been produced for hundreds of years out of HBCUs. And it's unfortunate in my opinion, that we continue to go back to foundations, whether it be the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, whatever, whatever.

26:19 - 26:45

And we get these base hits every year, because when you compete in any other arena, those that receive the most money are those that are outperforming. So if your metric is on Black and brown people and HBCU candidates and graduates are outperforming, why is it that they still get the same little blip every year?

26:46 - 27:04

Because it's been on your projections for so many years at that same level. So for this podcast, as we're talking about changing the trajectory, that requires a more bold infusion of investment in the talent that you know that you need to receive long term.

27:05 - 27:36

I'll say from the investment side, it's also up to all of us to make sure we bring the resources of the firm to help out the HBCUs as well. Right. I think investment management is far more than just managing the assets. I'm really focused on specifically HBCUs. How do we show up to help the schools kind of lengthen the legacy that they've had for generations. Right. With how they partner with us,

27:36 - 28:10

And our thought leadership, and our research, and the amount of time we have to put in to really understanding the mission to make sure that whatever the Adriannes and Rodneys in the world are bringing in, that it's sustained in a very meaningful way. Are institutions like mine seeking to provide resources to these institutions? The reward is so much greater. If firms could step up to the plate and make sure we are doing for some schools like we're doing with the rest of the schools.

28:11 - 28:16

James, how big is Bernstein? 600 billion. 600 billion.

28:16 - 28:37

Yeah. And so here is what I've often wondered, you have a Fortune 1000 companies, right? Big, big, big companies, huge assets. And you got one hundred HBCUs, why don't they just divide them up and 10 of them adopt one HBCU each and just claim it and make it right. Yeah.

28:37 - 28:57

Figure out whatever assets it needs to be appropriately funded and just do it. It's a small relative investment, you know, compared to the donations that they make to the big, big schools.

28:57 - 29:30

I just, you know, what's that all about? I just want to say, you know, President Mason, I appreciate you asking that, because this is the type of bold conversation that we should be having, because it's not a lot. Right. And firms have social impact funds established. And even if you just took a portion of your social impact funds and directed it there, you can make a huge difference. And it isn't just for the HBCUs but it's for the organizations, Waymond, to your point, that are supporting our causes.

29:30 - 29:58

So, James, you're on the hot seat. How do you reshape your structure in order to address that? Well, first, I will say not all social impact funds are created equal. Right. And I think there are social impact funds that are specifically earmarked for projects that could impact institutions. But I will also say I, along with other members who have the same passions as I do,

29:58 - 30:23

in the industry, are literally challenging industry leaders to to do exactly that, you know, so I would say on my behalf that thinking that evolution of what the contribution looks like is real. And there are a lot of us pushing for things like that. When I think about my direct influence and impact with the things I control, though, I have focused a lot on talent.

30:24 - 30:49

But there's a counting the cost that's required not just for my industry, but just for corporate America. All right, James, I'm not putting it on you and all the social impact offices out there. To me, it's a question of return on investment. They need the talent, and it's a minor investment with an extremely high return. So it should be a part of the main investment portfolio.

30:49 - 31:23

Look, I have the same conversations with the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, with all of the large private foundations that Adrianne's talking about. And they all say the same thing. They want the talent, but they want it to appear out of nothing. You know what I mean? And I don't get it. I don't get it. Why? Why, why? Why only Black folk got to come out of a puff of smoke when everything else you invest money to make it happen? So for me, this is why I mentioned the whole idea of intentionality. So I'll just share with everyone some of the intentional things.

31:24 - 31:58

Sophomore development program. We we have a program for rising juniors as an example to bring them either to New York or Nashville to experience for eight weeks life in a financial services firm. We go and seek those individuals. Why? Because when I grew up in Hollis, Queens, I knew nothing about the industry I'm in now. Right. And I really didn't have any one who was pushing me from behind to say, hey, go experience in AllianceBernstein, go experience at Morgan Stanley. So there is that that's in play.

31:58 - 32:23

And again, one of the things I'm really proud of is some of the partnerships we have with not just schools, but organizations. But to your point, President Mason, we need all institutions to do the things because, look, at the end of the day, we're a small firm by numbers of people, right? So we can impact what we could impact. If we get firms that are one hundred thousand people,

32:23 - 32:54

two hundred thousand people, you know, and you figure out what that compounding looks like over time, we will make a huge change and a huge difference. But I accept the challenge. I mean, |I'm not just trying to make the point about Bernstein. I'm just trying to make the point that the resources are there to produce the talent. And let me talk a little bit about UDC while I got you, OK, because I think we're doing something really different. So we are basically a state system all in one universe.

32:54 - 33:15

We do workforce training. We do technical associates, we do academic associate. You do bachelors and above. Right. And we're creating these seamless pathways where you can start in the workforce program and look at a direct line straight to a bachelor's degree with multiple credentials and multiple on and off ramps along the way. Right.

33:16 - 33:50

And we're even extending that down into the high school and middle schools where you can start that pipeline there. And so that when we say we want to be a model for urban students' success, that's what we're talking about, a public education option that speaks specifically to the circumstances of the students that we serve, right. Now, I think that's a perfect investment opportunity - if you want to create talent over time, because this is a long game. Right. You know, work with the institutions that are working with the public school systems that are working with the students where the talent is. Yeah.

33:51 - 34:23

Look, I don't know who listens to this podcast, but if anybody's listening, I have a minimum required investment for a high level of return. I like that. Make that appeal. I will say, Dr. Mason just gave a blueprint for actually, for what works. And when you think about workforce development, if you look at intentionally or unintentionally how companies invest in PWIs, at where they find and get their talent, that is the system that actually works. Think about the people who typically work at an institution, a corporation.

34:23 - 34:58

Many times they're investing in that K-12 system through their property tax dollars because they live in that community and they live in a suburban area. And suburban districts typically have higher percentages of property taxes go into their K-12 schools. So they tend to have more programs like teachers, all those different things that get that K-12 investment. When you think about what Dr. Mason just said, like that is the intentionality around how you address something in an urban space. And literally that is exactly what we are trying to do at large scale. And therefore, it is starting out in a

34:58 - 35:23

urban district, working intensively with the K-12 students and teachers and the faculty on, hey, what's the specific issue that we want to address? Well, it is knowing in that community that we needed more people with digital skills, knowing that the teachers needed that as well. And how do we create some type of immersive experience for them and then transforming that to the HBCU space?

35:23 - 35:56

When we looked at our model, Dr. Mason, was where are these students going to go next? If we're working within city schools? Well, the majority of these students go to HBCUs. It makes a lot of sense. If we start pitching investors on, we should be doing something at HBCUs and start having the conversations with the presidents. You hear many a president talk about, you know, it's going to be great for this investment here. But if that student, before they graduate, had exposure to something as it relates to STEM, or financial training, all these different things, man, they would be a much stronger student.

35:56 - 36:19

And we can do this with them. And programming wouldn't have to be remediation. They wouldn't waste dollars on another semester and all those different things. That's what we're trying to address throughout this. And therefore, it is a holistic approach of workforce development, community building, transfer, strong word, but transfer of wealth. When you think about this being at the moment 150-200 million dollar project.

36:20 - 36:41

And when you think about the money that corporations put up to address other issues, it's a drop in the bucket, something that's going to yield them the results that they want as it relates to talent, which is, you know, if the name of the game right now, and the companies are only going to grow and do and expand and all these different things if talent is there.

36:41 - 36:55

And then now what you have on top of that is as you start pulling this talent  in, when you talk about millennials and Gen Z, they are going to be the ones that hold companies to, you know, what are you doing, are you doing what you said you are doing in this moment?

36:55 - 37:22

How are we meeting this opportunity in the community? What is our give back? Is it just us that's here? I don't want it to be just us here. We start thinking about, you know, that group that's the now the dominant group in the workforce and they have not surpassed everyone as far as the C-Suite  yet. But these are the people that you want to be coming to work all the time, every day and amped up and ready to do this. And we've got a lot of models out there to be able to make that happen.

37:22 - 37:56

For someone who's in a recruiting space a lot on the corporate side, I will just say those who recruit should be prepared to be asked questions that they've never been asked before. The things that are on the hearts and minds of the talent that are coming out of these schools is amazing. Right? You know, from the many conversations I have on campus in recruiting, the things that we witness and experience as Black Americans are usually parts of the first questions they ask of the organization.

37:56 - 38:19

You have to be in tune with the cultural relevance of the societal things that creates a certain level of burden for some of us and not most of us, not just where we show up or how we show up and how we are able to answer the questions of those Gen Zers. But I do feel some responsibility to help prepare the students, to encourage them to ask the question.

38:19 - 38:49

I think more now than ever before. I want to make sure the talent chooses where they want to go, right, and not where they are pulled into. So, look, I want to throw a conclusive question out to all of you. And that is, you know, as we're wrapping up this episode, what is the one ask that you have of anyone and everyone listening to this episode with respect to furthering the legacy, the impact and the influence of HBCUs?

38:49 - 39:20

I'll go to you, Rodnety, since we just finished chatting. So take time to build the relationship, understand the culture of that school, understand what it is that a company needs, make the investment, know that they're going to be some short term wins. But I also know that this is a process of you figuring out as a company the talent that you actually need and how you can work with an institution to get that talent or whether it's an entity like Ed Farm to help build that ecosystem.

39:21 - 39:25

But you have to be willing to put in that work. What about you, Ron?

39:25 - 39:57

I think it's important for organizations to begin to really show up more, particularly with HBCUs to be able to make sure that we highlight the assets, the value proposition within our institution. When we talk about focusing on the value proposition of the institution, one of the things that I think about is that, at UDC, I mean, we have a biomedical engineering program, we have nanotechnology, we have urban gentrification as a research area and

39:58 - 40:12

cyber security, cancer biology, one of our recent graduates of our master's degree program in cancer biology is now working on the COVID vaccine Project. Those stories are not getting told.

40:12 - 40:46

And we want folks to really understand who we are and that we're doing this critical work in the community. We're out there on the front lines solving these urban problems and really moving forward social change in our communities and letting folks know that and being able to understand that there's a lot of work that's happening that's unseen, that's unrecognized, that's not heard about. And hopefully we can get seen and understood and invested in. Thanks, Ron.

40:46 - 40:57

I think that's a really powerful. I think, oftentimes, people underestimate the power of storytelling. President Mason. It's not as if I can say it this way.

40:58 - 41:29

You know, America is still a work in progress, right? And the business model that we have today, that was created even before America was America, right, really does not serve the interests of the nation, even if it was a good idea 400 years ago and necessary for America to get started. Right. And so if we don't change the business model, there's a real question about whether the experiment that we call America can be a success.

41:29 - 41:56

And by changing the business model, what I mean is living up to the words of the Declaration of Independence, which basically is that all talent is created equal. So in a nutshell, you know, if you believe in America and if you believe in American institutions, right, then you have to believe in the institutions that have held America together and that offer the highest potential to help America be America, which are historically Black colleges and universities.

41:57 - 42:22

And so if you are asking me what what should happen and what the ask is, you know, it's to invest in yourself. And I'm talking to Fortune 1000 companies now, you know, invest in yourself and your future and the future of America by investing in HBCUs and more specifically, invest in the University of the District of Columbia, because it is the model for the future, not only HBCUs, but also for higher education in general.

42:22 - 42:51

I'll pose the same, Adrianne, to you. Yeah, I would say that, you know, we started this out with "It's Our Time". And I would encourage people to look at this time as an end of an era. Right, the old era of how we've treated and seen HBCUs, we should be closing the door on that, and taking this moment to step into what we could create as a new movement.

42:52 - 43:09

And by doing that, it's regardless of where you sit. I'm going to ask that you, number one, learn something new about an HBCU, if it's a new term for you or you've only heard of the top 10, 20. Dig deeper.

43:09 - 43:36

So that's the first thing. And the second thing is, let's get involved with social media from the movement standpoint. And I would say text and tell two other people what you learned about that institution, and then write a check. It doesn't matter if it's a small check or big check. But let's all start taking accountability for being a part of what we call America, and that's what I would end with.

43:36 - 44:05

Great. Thanks, Adrianne. You know, in my world, I will continue, although not a graduate of HBCU, but hopefully a father of two kids that will go to a school, you know, continue to do all I can to fight on my end, whether it's corporate, whether it's individual, whether it's using this podcast and the episodes to really hone in on this idea of changing the trajectory. It's not all about wealth, is not all about money.

44:05 - 44:26

It's about education. It's about community, is about healthcare. It's about all of the preexisting conditions that we have to continue to fight for Black America. And so with that said, I want to thank all of you. Adrianne, special thanks to you for for helping me pull this together. Thank you. Pleasure. Pleasure. Thank you. Thank you all. So to my listeners.

44:26 - 44:56

I really hope you enjoyed this great episode. I'd love to hear from you. So please share your thoughts, questions and any feedback you might have to Be sure to share, subscribe and rate us on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to a podcast, or check us out on Twitter at BernsteinPWM. Bernstein: Making money meaningful for individuals, families, and foundations for over 50 years. Visit us at

James Thompson
Senior National Director—Diverse and Multicultural Wealth Segments

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