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EPG Summit Breaks Down Barriers for Diverse Students

Clint Smith '10
Clint Smith '10

The Center for Career Development will host the Emerging Professionals Group Summit Nov. 4-6, in partnership with the Emerging Professionals Group and Red Ventures.

The summit is designed specifically for African-American and Hispanic/Latino students interested in exploring the full range of career options, while polishing the "soft skills" necessary to navigate any space with professional clarity and confidence.

"Diversity in the workplace is key to fostering a strong and inclusive economy that is built to last, but despite an increasingly diverse population there remain significant barriers to access and critical gaps in key sectors and at the executive levels," said Jeanne-Marie Ryan (@jeannemarieryan), executive director of the Center for Career Development.

"We still see a stark lack of diversity in corporate boardrooms; of current Fortune 500 CEOs, only 0.8 percent are African-American and 1.2 percent are Latino. Earlier in careers, racial inequality in the labor market means that graduates of color are almost twice as likely to be unemployed than white counterparts. African-American graduates with a bachelor's degree have a 4.1 percent unemployment rate versus 2.4 percent for white graduates.

"Proactively tackling this inequality, the EPG Summit program is designed to expose talented, diverse students to various industries to enable them to explore numerous career paths, and empower them with the connections and confidence to bridge the gaps to a rewarding career path," Ryan said.

Elevating Expectations

"We are expecting 100 participants from more than 35 colleges and universities nationwide," said Tiffany Waddell Tate, assistant director of career development. "The fact that our kickoff speaker is an EPG alumnus himself is a testament to the founding vision of Donnie Johnson '00 and Vincent Benjamin '04 (@evincentb), as well as a perfect illustration of the Davidson College Statement of Purpose in action in 2016."

Johnson and Benjamin founded the Emerging Professionals Group in 2006 based on the belief that if they created an environment of elevated expectations, enhanced awareness and intense preparation, they could create more and better professional opportunities for motivated students. Since its founding, EPG has guided more than 175 students through a development program that has prepared them for professional success after graduation.

The kickoff speaker, Clint Smith '10 (@ClintSmithIII), is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University and a National Science Foundation graduate fellow. He also is the author of the recently released book of poetry, Counting Descent, a contributor to The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker.

"EPG provided me with the resources, social capital and confidence to know that I could walk into any room, no matter who was there, and feel like I belonged," said Smith. "As a young student of color, EPG helped disabuse me of the notion that I didn't belong in spaces where there weren't many people who looked like me. It shaped the way I thought about the world. It shaped the way I thought about myself."

This year's summit will include a Friday dinner lecture and book signing by Smith, followed by a performance in the Duke Family Performance Hall of the Harlem Gospel Choir, part of the college's Nancy and C. Shaw Smith Artist Series.

Saturday morning workshops will include interview prep and networking with employers. The Saturday luncheon which will feature a keynote talk by Debra Plousha Moore, executive vice-president and chief human resources officer of Carolinas Healthcare, and Queens University of Charlotte's 2015 BusinessWoman of the Year. Afternoon panels will break out by industry: sports management, entertainment and marketing; public health; technology and entrepreneurship; non-profit management; financial services; and consulting.