WALMART AND NORTH Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC A&T), a historically Black university located in Greensboro, announced in November their launch of the Equity in Education initiative. The purpose of the initiative is to prepare more African American college graduates to pursue careers in critical emerging fields in business, engineering, and other professional disciplines.
Walmart’s gift of 5 million USD will fund the delivery of tailored resources and assistance to undergraduate students through four programs at the school. The first, Scholarship Support, will provide tuition assistance for NC A&T students. The second, Black Male Initiative, is a program housed in the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics. The program was originally created with seed funding from the Executive Leadership Council, a membership organization whose mission is to increase the number of Black C-suite executives around the world. With Walmart’s funding, the school will expand the initiative’s efforts to increase Black men’s achievement, retention, and graduation rates, which are often lower than those of their female peers.
The third, Advancing Blacks in Engineering, is designed to increase the number of Black engineering graduates and prepare them for leadership roles in a profession that has been historically dominated by majority populations.
The final program, the Leadership Cohort Initiative, is also supported by Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), a national nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals from underrepresented communities make an impact. Through this initiative, students in the colleges of business and engineering will be provided skill-building, coaching, and networking opportunities to jumpstart their professional careers.
In addition, students participating in the Equity in Education Initiative will have the opportunity to study business cases provided by Walmart as part of a career-readiness curriculum.
The overall goal for the Equity in Education initiative is to provide students from underrepresented backgrounds the resources they need to graduate on time, with less debt; support their academic performance; prepare them to work in fields with high worker demand; and increase their economic and social mobility.
“Sixty percent of the 450,000 Black and Latinx students who graduate from college each year end up unemployed or in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. That is not acceptable,” says MLT founder and CEO John Rice. “Our objective is to equip these students with the professional coaching, high-performance playbook, and employer connections to ensure they land career path jobs that deliver economic mobility for them and their families.”
Walmart’s investment in the Equity in Education Initiative is in addition to a 100 million USD that the company and its foundation have committed to creating a new center for racial equity. The company also announced that it had created four shared value networks (SVNs) that are dedicated to the topic of racial equity in the United States’ criminal justice, education, financial, and healthcare systems. In its 2021 Mid-Year Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Report, the company describes SVNs as “teams of Walmart associates that come together to help solve societal problems through business by identifying the natural overlaps between Walmart capabilities … and opportunities to advance racial equity at scale.”
The Equity in Education Initiative, specifically, “is not only an important step in advancing Walmart’s focus on eliminating barriers to opportunity, it also lays foundational building blocks with a diverse pool of talent who we hope will one day consider joining the Walmart team,” says Donna Morris, executive vice president and chief people officer at Walmart. “These programs will benefit students while also helping to further that vision.”
The initiative will roll out over three semesters, beginning in early 2021. The partners plan to support the initiative for the next five years.
Equity in Education is part of a broader push at the university to support diversity and inclusion across campus. In December, NC A&T also announced an interdisciplinary partnership between its College of Education and Curriculum Associates, a company based in North Billerica, Massachusetts, that supports educational institutions in their assessment efforts. The partners have launched the Innovation in Education initiative, which will encourage collaborative research designed to eliminate testing biases in the classrooms for students of color, expose university students to opportunities in education and research, train teachers and practitioners to become a part of the test writing and assessment process, and provide scholarship support to lessen the debt burden of scholars.