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N.C. A&T will use a new $5 million grant to help its business and engineering students
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N.C. A&T will use a new $5 million grant to help its business and engineering students

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GREENSBORO — A $5 million corporate grant from Walmart — the largest in N.C. A&T history — will help undergraduate students in two of the university's largest academic divisions.

A&T said the Equity in Education Initiative, announced Thursday, will help its business and engineering colleges produce more and better prepared Black graduates for two professional fields where African Americans have been underrepresented for years.

A&T Chancellor Harold Martin called the donation "not only one of the largest corporate investments in equity in higher education, it's also one of the most thoughtfully structured and will impact the lives of thousands of (A&T) students."

A&T's new effort will have four main components. They are:

• The Black Male Initiative, which will try to improve retention, graduation rates and overall academic achievement among Black male students. African-American men at A&T and many other colleges and universities are more likely to quit school and less likely to earn a degree than Black women.

• The Leadership Cohort Initiative, which will provide coaching, connections and other career preparation skills to students in the College of Engineering and Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics. A&T said this effort will help graduates of these two colleges jumpstart their professional careers. 

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• Advancing Blacks in Engineering, which will help A&T produce more Black engineering graduates and groom them for leadership roles in the profession. A&T already ranks among the top universities in the nation in the annual number of Black graduates of its bachelor's, master's and doctoral engineering programs.

• Scholarships for business and engineering undergraduates.

Walmart plans to spread the money over three semesters starting next spring. Martin said about 20 to 25% of the money will go toward scholarships. The rest will be divided between leadership training, student support and administrative oversight of this new program.

The donation to A&T is the first major gift from a new Walmart commitment to address systemic racism and discrimination. The retailer and its charitable foundation said this summer they would spend $100 million over the next five years to support philanthropic projects to improve criminal justice, education, financial and health care systems.

The donation announced Thursday pairs America's largest retailer with the nation's largest four-year historically Black college and university. A&T has nearly 12,800 students enrolled and is trying to grow to 14,000 students within the next three years.

Donna Morris, a Walmart executive vice president, said A&T's size, its series of national No. 1 rankings among HBCUs and the company's familiarity with the university were attractive to the company as it sought partners in the education realm for its new racial equity initiative.

"Our desire is to establish a fantastic program (at A&T) that will really contribute to the successful completion of education for both male and female students in business and in engineering," Morris said. "Hopefully it can be a framework and template for other HBCUs across the country."

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.​

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