This week, two Fortune 500 companies – JPMorgan Chase and Honeywell – visited Jackson State University to expand their presence in the HBCU orbit and vowed to build partnerships to boost students, research and innovation.
JSU President Thomas K. Hudson praised both major corporations for their willingness to collaborate, and he told Honeywell that organizations typically like to show that they are partnering with HBCUs. However, Hudson is advocating for deeper investments.
“Companies like to recruit at JSU, especially with our STEM and science fields in terms of African Americans,” Hudson explained. Still, he said his desire is to expand the number of students on campus who would benefit from increased corporate support.
Speaking to representatives from JPMorgan Chase, Hudson described the timing of their visit as “perfect” because JSU is nearing the completion of its strategic plan. He said a strong corporate partnership would help support the university’s goals for improving infrastructure, student success and financial sustainability.
To meet these important metrics, Hudson is urging major corporations to build “holistic relationships” with JSU so that students may secure valuable internships for successful careers.
On Monday, Honeywell representative Danny White, the education vertical market sales leader for North America, acknowledged that America is becoming more urban and diverse. As a result, he said there’s a tremendous need for a bigger pipeline of talent. “Where should we get that from?” White asked rhetorically. Then, he quickly provided an answer: “JSU.”
White said HBCUs have great “academic prowess, and we want to make sure we’re part of the community. We realize that with all the work you do at Jackson State that you need great corporate partners.”
Although company reps also spoke of Honeywell’s commercial services that would benefit the university’s operations, they emphasized a stronger willingness to support JSU’s curriculum, culture and community – without precondition. “That’s the commitment,” said White, a Mississippi native whose father attended JSU. “We just want an opportunity to engage … and start a great strategic partnership.”
Honeywell noted that it had hosted a number of events on HBCU campuses throughout the country. These have included webinars on equity in education, computer science hack-a-thons and virtual career fairs. The company foresees such involvements on JSU’s campus.
“Alignment of values is very important,” White said. “The things that are important to us are important to you guys at Jackson State. We have to figure out how to make that work.”
On Wednesday, JPMorgan Chase representatives pitched their own ideas for a long-term partnership with JSU.
In June, Chase opened its first bank branch in Mississippi and invited JSU to be part of its grand opening in Jackson.
Hudson told JPMorgan that “we want you to collaborate with us in all activities.” He said the relationship would be mutually beneficial as he touted JSU’s academic research and its Career Services Center that helps students with internships and job placements.
JPMorgan’s Jay Marks is an associate commercial banker who assists with higher education and leads engagement with HBCUs. Based in New Orleans, he said he wants to help grow first-generation students. As well, he said the company’s visit to JSU seeks to understand “what you value as a good partnership with a financial institution.”
Alexander Harris is vice president and Treasury Management Officer for JPMorgan in Dallas. His role is to help higher education clients become more efficient in managing day-to-day cash. He said his team would help in that role, as well as assist institutions such as Jackson State build network connections throughout the country.
Adding more firepower, Todd Nordeen serves as managing director of higher education at JPMorgan in the Dallas, Texas, office. “Our job is to be an advocate for JSU,” he said. Nordeen shared that the company already works with 450 colleges from a banking perspective. Now, his goal includes hiring JSU students, giving them the same access as other major universities and learning how much more JPMorgan can contribute to the urban institution.
“Now, it’s an open playing field,” said Nordeen, citing the revolution created by the George Floyd tragedy, particularly for bringing more attention to disparities and inspiring efforts to close financial gaps and create new opportunities.
Although Hudson has listed infrastructure, student success and financial sustainability as his three key goals for university-wide success, he also lamented past historical hurdles in the money market.
“We’ve been locked out of long-term wealth building for a long time. So, a partnership with JPMorgan Chase would shorten the gap and help us get into those spaces.”