Three HBCUs Partner in DC Entrepreneur Scholarship Program - Higher Education
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Three HBCUs Partner in DC Entrepreneur Scholarship Program

by Lois Elfman

Three historically Black colleges and universities have announced a $1 million program to develop the entrepreneurial aspirations of students from the District of Columbia who will enroll at their institutions.

Morgan State University, Bowie State University and the University of the District of Columbia will collaborate on The Capital Builders Center, an entrepreneurship-focused student scholarship program and training institute that features courses, mentoring, leadership training and individualized coaching to build skills in management and entrepreneurship. There will also be opportunities for work experiences and internships.

Washington, D.C. high school students with program leaders.

The Clifton Foundation is the funding partner of the scholarship program.

Bowie State president Dr. Aminta H. Breaux said that she had been in touch with the foundation about entrepreneurship development going on at her  university, particularly an assessment tool called “strength finder.” UDC was having similar conversations, and the Clifton Foundation brought the three universities together for the project.

“Our students coming in are expressing a great deal of interest in entrepreneurship,” said Breaux. “It’s going to be very beneficial to look at this as a model. We’re each very different institutions. I think having the diversity of institutions is going to be helpful as we’re looking at the outcomes—to see what works and what’s not working, trying to find out what’s the best model to educate students around entrepreneurship.”

Data will be shared at the end of each year. The goal at the conclusion of the three-year program is to release the model on a national level.

“Morgan looks forward to working with UDC and Bowie on shaping the cohorts that will participate in the program, collaborating on the entrepreneurship curriculum in which the students will engage and providing the support needed to ensure the success of the students,” said Dr. Kara Turner, vice president for enrollment management and student services at Morgan State. “We also anticipate working together to secure additional funding to allow us to expand the program on our campuses and beyond.”

Dr. Aminta H. Breaux

Students with diverse interests and intended majors have long expressed interest in entrepreneurship, Breaux said, adding that she wants Bowie State to provide the support to encourage those interests. Turner said the same about Morgan State students, noting that regardless of major, students have expressed a growing interest in developing entrepreneurial skills.

“You look at the workplace and how that’s evolving and the students need to have a certain type of skill set that cuts across disciplines,” said Breaux, adding that having the necessary skills and acumen to create new businesses and be entrepreneurial in their thinking is necessary for students.

Students participating in the program will go through a boot camp in which they will be mentored on how to create small businesses. They will then engage in experiential learning opportunities. The programs will be slightly different on each campus.

The three-year grant is administered by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the program is open to students entering college in the fall of 2018. Current freshmen also may apply.

“Ultimately, we want to get the students through to graduation having the skill set and the mindset to be successful,” said Breaux. “We’ll be assessing in the first, second and third year to see where we are and whether we expand the program in the same way or whether we need to make adjustments. We have to see what’s working.”

Collaboration among the three universities will help generate new ideas and models that may be replicated nationwide.  Partnerships with other educational institutions, businesses and government agencies will help students achieve excellence and preparation for the 21st-century workplace, Breaux said.

“It fits in with our vision for the future of BSU and meeting this generation of learners where they are,” she said.

Turner anticipated a diverse group of student participants.

“Our students are diverse in many aspects, including socioeconomic status, ethnic background and academic background,” she said, “so we look forward to indeed having a diverse group of students participating.”

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