Education Design Lab Establishes Career Pathways with United Negro College Fund

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Education Design Lab have announced a three-year engagement with UNCF’s Career Pathways Initiative (CPI). African-American unemployment rates remain almost twice as high as unemployment rates for whites. From March 2017 to March 2018, black unemployment averaged 7.4 percent compared to 3.7 percent average for white Americans. 

As a response to lopsided unemployment rates, the Eli Lilly Endowment funded UNCF to create a Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) to fund efforts at 24 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly black institutions (PBIs) to strengthen institutional career placement outcomes. To support the understanding of employer needs and how they relate to the future of postsecondary education, Education Design Lab (The Lab) has been contracted by UNCF to work with subset of 14 Career Pathways Initiative institutions to hasten and strengthen implementation of their plans. 

The Lab will work with the selected institutions in three different cohorts with distinct focuses: 

Foundational Education cohort: approaches include curriculum re-design, identification of gateway courses, and first and second year experiences that pose barriers to progression for students.


        •  Dillard University
        •  Huston Tillotson University
        •  Jarvis Christian College
        •  LeMoyne-Owen College
        •  University of West Alabama
        •  Xavier University of New Orleans

Workforce Development cohort: approaches to strengthen the connection between college majors and careers, such as through the development of strategic partnerships with the workforce.

        •  Oakwood College
        •  Rust College
        •  Talladega College
        •  Tennessee State University

Faculty Development cohort: approaches used to assist faculty in better understanding the skills and competencies needed in the workforce, and to aid faculty in aligning and delivering curriculum to those identified needs.

        •  Florida Memorial University
        •  Morehouse College
        •  Norfolk State University
        •  Tougaloo College 

“Education Design Lab’s engagement with 14 of our 24 CPI institutions follows our 2018 theme of Purposeful Disruption, working with our institutions to employ purposeful, innovative approaches to disrupt higher education systems as we know it,” said Edward Smith-Lewis, Director of the Career Pathways Initiative at UNCF. “The Lab and technical assistance provided will help the selected colleges accelerate and strengthen their ongoing efforts to achieve stated goals.” 

This three-year engagement with UNCF follows a two-and-a-half-day design sprint that The Lab led for all 24 CPI member institutions in June of 2017. Institutions learned about what the Lab can assist with, including the opportunity to design experiments, collaborations and partnerships with high performing ecosystem partners who are producing results at scale for minority graduates. 

“Following the success of last summer’s design sprint, the Education Design Lab is excited and honored to support this important initiative and the timing is excellent,” said Kathleen deLaski, founder of Education Design Lab. “In our work around the country, we see that employers are ready to co-design and inform new pathway models to meet the rapidly changing needs of the creative and technical economy.”

Are you an adult education, Career Pathways program working near one of these colleges or universities?  If so, we want to hear from you about how this partnership could be capitalized upon by adult education programs?  How can we connect adult learners in these communities to the identified institutions, and their post-secondary, pathways programs?  Share your ideas, so that we can all be better advocates for bridging adult and post-secondary education initiatives, like this one.

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

About UNCF 
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness.