Penn GSE CMSI

CMSI Partners with The Whether for Entrepreneur Fellowship for HBCU Students

Philadelphia, Pa., September 11, 2018—The Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), in partnership with an award-winning recruitment marketing platform, The Whether, has launched the Mary Ellen Pleasant Entrepreneur (MEPE) Fellowship. The fellowship aims to increase future entrepreneurs from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and is part of a $775,000 “Innovations in Career Advising” grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Through the MEPE Fellowship, 25 fellows will build a career-advising startup to help their peers declare majors, prepare for interviews, and explore career paths. These fellows will be selected from a network of 17 HBCU partners with a collective population of more than 50,000 students.

The MEPE Fellowship will provide fellows with an opportunity to build their own startup through a 10-week virtual internship during the Spring 2019 semester. Over the 10 weeks, fellows will:

  • Learn key startup principles and the components to successful and sustainable entrepreneurship
  • Participate in a virtual curriculum on marketing, the customer funnel, and the business model canvas
  • Collaborate with each other across partner institutions through periodic virtual meetings
  • Experiment with innovative techniques to assist students on campus in identifying career paths and interests early

The MEPE fellows will build their career-advising startup using two key elements:

  1. A virtual business and marketing-focused curriculum developed by the Whether.
  2. The Whether’s scientifically-validated Soft Skills and Values Assessment (SSVA).

The curriculum will teach fellows the business of career advising, its impact on the success of their institution, and how to scale advising to thousands of their peers. The SSVA  provides a personalized and holistic evaluation of a student’s natural values, motivations, and abilities. It has been used as a model by institutions such as Harvard University and Washington University in St. Louis.

Unlike other assessments that only focus on personality traits, the SSVA takes an individual’s natural values, motivations, and abilities into account when discovering career paths. It provides a lifetime’s worth of career advice in less than 30 minutes. As evidenced by a Strada-Gallup survey (2017) of over 32,000 students, only a third of students believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the job market (34%) and only 36% believe they will be successful in the workplace, and just half (53%) believe their major will lead to a good job. With the SSVA, students receive personalized career advice about their soft skills, leadership, key strengths, caution areas, and desired organizational culture in an easy-to-understand report accessible on their phone. Fellows will be encouraged to use their entrepreneurial creativity to get as many of their peers to complete the SSVA.

Fellows will keep track of their impact on campus by measuring the number of students they’ve reached, those who have completed their SSVA, and those who have provided feedback about the effectiveness of their campus-advising startup. Fellows will conclude their experience with a celebration dinner hosted by CMSI.

“By encouraging their peers to get excited about their career interests and using tools like the SSVA to gain clarity on their potential, fellows will leave a legacy of innovation within the career advising efforts on their campus,” says Marybeth Gasman, the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

The cohort of HBCUs that will host the MEPE fellowship on their campus include:

  • Albany State University
  • Benedict College
  • Bluefield State University
  • Claflin University
  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Dillard University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Jackson State University
  • Langston University
  • Morgan State University
  • North Carolina A&T University
  • North Carolina Central University
  • Paul Quinn College
  • Spelman College
  • Stillman College
  • Tennessee State University
  • Xavier University of Louisiana

Creating career paths for others has always been close to The Whether founder and CEO, Chris Motley’s heart.

“The Whether was born out of my own experience as a student,” Motley reflects. “My career path has been serendipitous in many ways. As an African-American, first-generation college graduate from the south side of Chicago, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. There are certain careers —and networks—a person is exposed to when growing up, but they represent a subset of relevant opportunities one could pursue.”

“We’re excited to collaborate with CMSI and our HBCU partners to increase entrepreneurs across these campuses, all while accelerating our vision to personalize career paths for every student,” says Motley. “Together, we will make it easier for these schools to innovate with their faculty, grant partners, and employer partners using the data captured from the assessment. Empowering fellows with a scientifically-validated product allows the school to scale career education to every student. Helping students make a great impression with alumni and employer partners who visit campus allows the institution to showcase their institution and student population in a distinct way. We believe our advising and recruiting model is a real game-changer.”

The program, which began accepting applications on August 1, 2018, will allow fellows to earn up to $2,500 based on metrics and feedback from their campus community. The MEPE Fellowship is a one-year grant that is piloting these important concepts to make a big impact in the next generation of minority entrepreneurs.

The application closes December 10, 2018, at 11:59 PM PDT and fellows will be announced in January 2019.  Only students from partner HBCUs are eligible for the fellowship.


About The Center for Minority Serving Institutions
The Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and 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. For further information about the Center, please visit www.gse.upenn.edu/cmsi.

About The Whether

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. Our values-based approach and automated content marketing engine saves companies 75% of recruiting spend while personalizing the candidate experience at scale. Based in St. Louis, we’re on a mission to scale career education for all college students and make recruiting them easier. For further information about the Whether, please visit check.thewhether.com.

Date: 
Tuesday, September 11, 2018