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NCCU Students Awarded National Fellowship


The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), in partnership with The Whether, a minority-owned recruitment marketing platform, has named four NCCU students to the Mary Ellen Pleasant Entrepreneur (MEPE) Fellowship program.

The NCCU students will join 25 fellows from across the nation for the inaugural cohort. Recipients were selected on the basis of interview skills; campus involvement; responsiveness; professional values; key strengths; and leadership engagement among other specific tasks.

Fellows will be provided with an opportunity to build a peer advising startup through a 10-week virtual fellowship during the Spring 2019 semester.

Throughout the fellowship, fellows will learn key startup principles and the components to successful and sustainable entrepreneurship; participate in a virtual curriculum on marketing and the customer funnel; collaborate virtually with the Whether’s peer advising platform across partner institutions; and experiment with innovative techniques to assist students on campus in identifying career paths and interests.

The fellowship funded in part by a $775,000 Innovations in Career Advising grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It aims to increase future entrepreneurs from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Each fellow is awarded up to $2,500 based on metrics and feedback from their campus community.

The students selected were: Jameerah Ali, junior, accounting and finance major; Taylor Ford, junior, business administration major; Carl Smith, senior, mass communication major; and Zaire Jenkins, sophomore, psychology major.

Junior accounting and finance major Jameerah Ali currently serves as a 2018 HBCU Competitiveness Scholar for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She also devoted her fall semester to studying marketing, banking, finance and strategic management at Mahidol University in Salaya, Thailand, which is 30 miles from Bangkok.

The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native has been involved with several student organizations, including the Financial Management Society, Alpha Chi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and NCCU’s student chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants Inc., where she serves as president.

Ali, who is a member of the University Honors Program, also devotes her time to the community. In her spare time, she volunteers for Durham Public Schools and the Durham Rescue mission, a non-profit organization that assists families who are homeless.

Taylor Ford set her sights on entrepreneurship early on. As a business administration major with an academic concentration in entrepreneurship, the High Point, North Carolina, native is involved in a number of organizations, including the Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society and the NCCU Business School Council.

She also serves as an intern for the NCCU Career and Professional Development Center and as a tutor for the university’s Academic Success and Enrichment Services department.

"It is an honor to be selected for this entrepreneurial fellowship. The creative and strategic mindset behind entrepreneurship is very exciting," Taylor said. 

The scholar has sharpened her leadership skills by participating in various leadership development programs including the University of California Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders, Goldman Sachs HBCU Leadership Summit and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 18th Annual Leadership Institute conference.

Ford aspires to become an executive for a Fortune 500 company and later exploring entrepreneurship.

Macclesfield, North Carolina, native Carl Smith is a senior mass communication major who aspires to become an entrepreneur. He has served in leadership roles including junior class senator for NCCU’s Student Government Association and president of Students Initiated to Mentor, Build and Achieve student group. 

Zaire Jenkins, a Rochester, New York native, is a sophomore psychology major that aspires for a career in Industrial Psychology. After graduation, she plans to further her education by obtaining a master’s degree in psychology.

The Penn CMSI brings together researchers and practitioners from HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions. The center’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities.

The Whether is a recruitment marketing platform that helps university recruiters build and nurture diverse talent pipelines. It recommends diverse candidates to employers through employer-generated career content that is targeted to students based on their soft-skills, strengths and values.

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