GREENSBORO, NC. (March 22, 2022) – Bennett College has been selected as one of twenty-eight historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the country to launch the inaugural 2021-2022 Strada HBCU Initiative, which includes its first program, Strada Scholars.
This ambitious partnership with Strada Education Network, a nonprofit social impact organization dedicated to increasing individuals’ economic mobility by fostering more purposeful connections between education and work, is supported through a $25 million investment in supporting the next generation of HBCU student leaders. The support of Strada Education Network through the HBCU Initiative is an unprecedented eight-year commitment to participating institutions.
“Historically Black colleges and universities drive significant social and economic mobility for their students,” said Daryl Graham, senior vice president of engagement and HBCU Initiatives. “That’s why it was intentional to collaborate with HBCU leaders from across the country to design a meaningful student-centered initiative centered around leadership, scholarship, and career experiences. We know true partnership begins and ends with inclusion, and we are thrilled Bennett College is a partner, and our Belle scholars are with us for years to come.”
In its recently released college rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Bennett College as first in the nation among national liberal arts colleges for the social mobility of its students. Bennett College has been more successful than any other school in America at advancing students’ wealth or social status by enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students awarded with Pell Grants.
“We share Strada’s commitment to social mobility and the development of women of color as leaders in their fields. Our participation in the HBCU Initiative provides a much needed boost for our students,” said Suzanne Elise Walsh, president of Bennett College. “It will allow them to explore career and leadership opportunities through internships or work, better positioning them for first steps in their professional career or graduate school.”
The Strada HBCU Initiative focuses on leadership development, providing students with scholarships and financial support to fund some of the costs associated with participating in internships and leadership programs. Designed to augment existing programs on HBCU campuses, it will provide experiences that marry a student’s academic learning with career goals and leadership aspirations by building their professional networks and preparing them for careers or further schooling. This initiative reflects a year-long collaboration with Strada to listen, learn from, and support the work of HBCUs in developing the next generation of leaders.
This year, we are proud to name three Bennett Belles Strada Scholars, changemakers who aim to make significant contributions on campus, within the community, and in their future careers: Maria Muniz Gonzalez, freshwoman from Burlington, North Carolina, pursuing dental school; Gabrielle Harper, freshwoman from Cincinnati, Ohio, majoring in psychology; and Sinclair Bennett, transfer student from Hopewell Virginia, majoring in elementary education.
“Black colleges have a profound, positive influence in communities, for alumni, and students who, in turn, have the potential to make a positive difference in our society,” said Marshall Grigsby, Strada trustee and former HBCU president, provost, and faculty member. “We hope to expand this work with an even broader cohort of institutions in years to come.”
In future years, Strada plans to expand the initiative beyond the initial 28 institutions to as many HBCUs as have interest in participating. For more information, visit stradaeducation.org/hbcuinitiative.