As the U.S. becomes majority-minority, employers face a critical challenge: to find and hire the next generation of diverse professionals in the high-growth industries of business, computer science, education, engineering, finance, healthcare and technology. UNCF (the United Negro College Fund) addresses this need through its annual Student Leadership Conference (SLC), conducted this year May 29 through June 1, where rising college juniors and seniors at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) attended intense training sessions hosted by high-level business and non-profit executives. UNCF workshops equipped students with the skills needed to be successful as interns and early-career professionals, as they begin to embark upon their internships and fellowships after the conclusion of the conference.
UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax delivered the opening keynote address to more than 70 college students at the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.
SLC attendees are top-caliber, selected program and scholarship recipients in key UNCF pipelines that are developing highly qualified college graduates. Students attending this year’s SLC were selected from one of the competitive internship or fellowship programs offered by Anthem Corporate Scholars Program; Health Care Navigator/Apricity Resources Scholars Program; UNCF/Carnival Corporate Scholars Program; United Health Foundation Diverse Scholars Initiative; the Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Fellows Program; and Wells Fargo’s intern program.
“These highly motivated students are the future leaders and professionals in their chosen industries, and this conference is engaging them outside their campuses and preparing them for that role,” Lomax said. “From healthcare to finance engineering, students like them will soon face challenges we’ve yet to imagine, and it’s imperative that they are prepared to step up and lead.
“We also couldn’t do this important work without the companies that are investing in these future leaders at this year’s SLC, so we truly thank our participating organizations for their continued support,” Lomax added. “This experience is invaluable for any student, but particularly for those UNCF supports.”
Students attending the conference were very excited by the information and skills the UNCF SLC provided.
Livi Grant, a junior at Florida A&M University said, “I was about to learn about corporate social responsibility… I’m happy to have engaged and worked with so many amazing individuals both professionally and personally.”
Reginald Blouin, Jr., a senior at Xavier University of Louisiana, explained that the conference gave him pertinent details about ensuring others following in his footsteps could have similar opportunities. “All the speakers were amazing. What they told me—and my favorite thing—was that [access to education is really important, and we need to stress that to all of our communities. And to give back!”
Along with Lomax, keynote speakers during the conference were noted author Dr. Joe Johnson, writer of “Pursue Your Purpose, Not Your Dreams”; and UNCF Director of National K-12 Advocacy Naomi Shelton.
Additional conference speakers included:
Dr. Kelvin Baggett, chief operating officer, Health Care Navigator
Tracey Edmunds, chief diversity officer, Anthem Corporation
Shawn Hardnett, CEO and founder, North Star College Preparatory Academy for Boys
Sharon Murphy, executive vice president and chief information officer, Wells Fargo and Company
Ronald Phillips, chief people officer and senior vice president of human resources, Carnival Cruise Line
The UNCF SLC is a component of the Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Reform Fellows Program, which is funded by the Walton Family Foundation. The SLC aims to equip students with the skillsets they will need to be successful as interns and early career professionals. Participants gain enhanced understanding of:
Verbal and written communications
Workplace productivity, readiness and etiquette
Personal leadership styles