Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been the epicenters of Black excellence and Black talent for decades.
However, these institutions and their students have been deprived of key opportunities for advancement over the years due to the underlying racial climate in America and a lack of exposure. Yet, corporations like PUMA are looking to become a much-needed catalyst for HBCUs and their students.
Earlier this month, PUMA announced a $1 million partnership over the next five years with Clark Atlanta University that will focus on helping students gain awareness and prepare them for roles within the sports apparel industry. Through customized curriculum, career prep, research projects, scholarships, and internships, students will experience the world of design/merchandising and be exposed to roles in information technology, marketing, and supply chain management. In addition to career prep, this initiative propels a semester-long mentorship program that will pair students with senior-level managers and employees.
“It’s incredibly important to have partnerships like this because we want to ensure within our industry that we are giving access to these students and we know that in order for them to have access they have to have the skills and they have to have the resources to be able to enter into our field,” said Michelle Marshall Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for PUMA North America in an exclusive with Cassius. “So this partnership will allow us to work with the students, mentor the students, provide scholarships to the students to ensure that we are building those relationships and really building awareness with them around all the incredible opportunities within our industry.”
“That pipeline is incredibly important to us,” said Adam Petrick, Chief Brand Officer at PUMA in a Cassius exclusive. “I don’t think it has always been there. And I think we want to make sure we are establishing those connections for the long term.”
According to Marshall, Clark Atlanta was perfectly aligned as an institution to work with PUMA. When the company did its research on HBCUs, Clark Atlanta was at the top of the list and had one of the more robust programs in terms of fashion merchandising. They are also looking to recruit students in other majors and disciplines like Information Technology, and Supply Chain, that could benefit from opportunities at PUMA.
Since its inception, Clark Atlanta University has cultivated a spirit of graduates that have gone to make impactful change…
“Since its inception, Clark Atlanta University has cultivated a spirit of graduates that have gone to make impactful change, establishing their own legacies,” said George French Jr, Clark Atlanta University President. “We are thrilled to partner with PUMA, amplifying the opportunities available to the next generation of changemakers at Clark Atlanta University. This partnership is an opportunity to introduce our HBCU to the world.”
The PUMA partnership with Clark Atlanta highlights the impact that corporate America could have on HBCUs and the impact that HBCUs could have on corporate America. At a time when these institutions are receiving more recognition and exposure, the need for sustainable and effective initiatives that lift up these students both socially and financially is vital.
“In time I think the goal would be that we’d have relationships with numerous HBCUs that we’d be able to tap into for upcoming talent for opportunities to expose ourselves to our consumer and be able to tap into their understanding of what our brand means and really be able to expand our vision and our understanding of the culture,” said Petrick.
Corporations and other large entities must continue to realize the value of HBCUs and invest their resources to create opportunities for these students and allow these unique places of higher learning to thrive.
If organizations want to talk the talk and say that we are all about human beings and we’re all about people,” said Marshall. “They need to also make sure that they are spending their dollars just like they do with the Ivy League and all the other universities, make sure they are also spending their dollars equally with HBCUs.”