The University Of Utah + Howard University: Helping Advance Utah Diversity

Three years on, two leaders of higher education continue to partner in an effort to enhance DEI efforts in Utah’s technology and business communities.

Twenty Black college students started summer internships in Utah yesterday via an unlikely partnership between the University of Utah and Howard University through the Impact H+U program at the David Eccles School of Business.

It all started with a relatively innocuous conversation between Aaron Skonnard, the founder and CEO of Pluralsight, and President Taylor Randall, Ph.D., current University of Utah head, but the then Dean of the Eccles School of Business.

“I was literally crossing paths with Aaron Skonnard in the halls, and we stopped and started talking about HR issues and workforce issues, particularly in the tech industry in Utah,” said President Randall. “And he said,

‘You know, we just need to have more diversity. We're gonna go back and try to recruit more black students to the tech industry in Utah, but we're afraid we may not be able to retain them.’"

As it turns out, President Randall and his colleagues had been having similar conversations at the business school, which when coupled with the happenstance discussion with the Pluralsight Founder/CEO, eventually led to a face-to-face visit in Washington, D.C. with the president of Howard University.

The D.C./Salt Lake City Connection

Formed after the Civil War in 1867 in the District of Columbia primarily to serve formerly enslaved people, Howard University is one of the oldest HBCUs in the country (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

Founders Library on the campus of Howard University downloaded from Wikipedia 05-16-22

Ranked by many as the top HBCU in America today, Howard currently offers over 120 undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees to students of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and races.

Interestingly, at roughly the same time that Pluralsight and the University of Utah were considering ways to increase and enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion opportunities within Utah’s businesses and society, President Wayne A. I. Frederick, MD and his colleagues were having similar conversations at Howard University.

Pres. Wayne A. I. Frederick, MD, photo by "PrettyPenny18," via Wikipedia, downloaded 05-17-22.

As Howard University’s President Frederick explained,

“Since I've been President at Howard I've been focused on workforce development and getting our students the experiences so that they are ready for the workforce that we want them to join. But also to make sure that employers are sensitized to what their needs are, what the different types of skill sets they're gonna bring, and also how they can integrate and actually add to the culture of their businesses.”

President Frederick describes the Howard/UofU partnership as a “perfect venture,” to which President Randall added:

“I just wanna comment a little bit on something that President Frederick mentioned. One of the keys to this partnership was his openness and his willingness to share the culture of Howard University, and how that culture could translate into the workforce. In fact, our visit here today with the (Howard University) Dean of the Business School and (its) Dean of the Medical School has been all about that: How do we shape our program?
“What types of things should we design into it, or frankly, not design into it, so that students will come here and get a very realistic experience of what it's like to work and live in Utah. That honest, frank feedback is probably the most valuable part of this partnership.”
Pres. Taylor Randall, Ph.D., photo downloaded from the University of Utah website 17 May 2022.

From Virtual to On-the-Ground Internships: The IMPACT H+U Program

The word/acronym “Impact” in the Impact H+U program name stands for

  • Impact,
  • Mentorship,
  • Professional Development,
  • Academic Achievement,
  • Community Development, and
  • Travel and Tourism

Although officially launched virtually in the summer of 2021 during year two of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Impact H+U has served

  • Six students in the inaugural cohort,
  • 16 in 2021, and is serving
  • 20 students this summer.

As a college internship program, Impact H+U was “built by Howard students and is designed to immerse Howard students of all classifications and majors in the unique and exciting environment of Salt Lake City.”

Participating interns

  • Receive roundtrip airfare to/from Salt Lake City,
  • Are housed in the world-renowned Lassonde Studios on campus at the UofU,
  • Are paid competitive salaries,
  • Have access to professional development workshops, and
  • Are invited to participate in weekend activities designed to expose students to Utah’s unique culture.

For the first time, however, two non-Howard students are participating in the Impact H+U program, one from Morgan State University and another from Morehouse University, with plans to fold other HBCUs into the program in 2023 and future years.

In the meantime, 11 Utah-based organizations are employing Impact H+U student interns during Summer 2022, including

Additionally, the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce will provide on-the-ground support to these students while they’re in Utah.

According to President Randall, the UofU business school partners with local businesses interested in pursuing a more diverse internship pool, particularly Black students, and then they visit Washington, D.C. together to recruit students.

Along the way, details are thought through and planned out between leaders at the two institutions to ensure an optimal experience for all involved.

Presidents Taylor Randall, Ph.D. and Wayne A. I. Frederick, MD (L to R) during an interview at the Alumni House at the University of Utah on 01 April 2022. Photo courtesy of the University of Utah.

“​​What's been … rewarding is that there's a shared set of values between the two institutions, and hence, by extension, the community,” President Randall said. “We care about entrepreneurship. We care about each other. We care about social impact. We care about things beyond the business and the transaction. We care about actually ‘amplifying humanity.’”

When asked his meaning behind one of his favorite phrases, “amplifying humanity,” President Frederick explained it this way:

“When I talk about amplifying each other's humanity, I talk about the fact that we should get engaged with one another, we should learn about one another, we should learn about what our norms are. Not that we have to agree or for that matter, even live it.
“But I think if we do that, we really then build something better for all of us, as opposed to if we just say, ‘Well, that person lives on that other street, you know, that tree fell on their house, that has nothing to do with me … I know nothing.’
“I think that we have to get out of that (perspective); we have to look at each other as neighbors and see the opportunity to do that. I think the more we do that, the better opportunity that we have.”

Utah-based organizations interested in exploring opportunities to participate in the Impact H+U program in 2023, or beyond, should contact Simone Lawrence, program manager (and a former Impact H+U intern), or they can visit the Impact H+U website here.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Silicon Slopes’ Co-Founder and CEO, Clint Betts, sat down with President’s Randall and Frederick in early April to learn more about the Impact H+U program and the partnership between the University of Utah and Howard University.

Two University of Utah videographers (foreground) record the interview of President Taylor Randall, Ph.D. (University of Utah) and Wayne A. I. Frederick, MD (Howard University) by Clint Betts (CEO & Co-Founder of Silicon Slopes), left to right, in the background. Photo taken 01 April 2022 and courtesy of the University of Utah.

To watch, or listen to, this interview, please visit “Two University Presidents Join Forces To Build Frontline DEI In Utah” where you will find links to both the video and audio recordings.

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