BellSouth Announces Major Grant to UNC Pembroke



From left: U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre, BellSouth representative John McKinney and Chancellor Allen Meadors

BellSouth announced a $105,000 grant for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. It is the largest private foundation gift in university history, officials said.

The grant, one of five BellSouth grants in the Southeast, will be delivered over a three-year period and is intended to boost minority graduation rates. The grant is a gift of BellSouth Foundation.

UNCP and BellSouth officials made the joint announcement May 6 at a reception on campus at the Chancellor's residence.

"We're very excited to be selected by BellSouth to receive this grant," Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said. "Gifts like this one do make the difference in providing quality programs for our students."

"We will use the funds to support our retention programs that assist our young people in their transition to college," Chancellor Meadors said. "One of our unique missions at the university is educating first generation college students, so this grant is especially welcome as we continue that role successfully into the 21st century."

BellSouth's research showed a need for special efforts to retain minority students in higher education.

"According to the U.S. Department of Education, minority college students are statistically less likely than non-minority students to complete their studies and earn a bachelor's degree in four to six years," said Krista Tillman, BellSouth's president of North Carolina operations. "With this new grant program, BellSouth is supporting the efforts of colleges and universities in guiding minority students toward ultimately achieving their goals."

The grants go to institutions of higher education that already have programs in place to retain minority students, BellSouth officials said. Other recipients are: the University of Alabama at Huntsville; Macon State College in Macon, Ga.; Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.; and Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C.

UNCP will use the grant to improve training and services offered in academic advising and its Freshman Seminar program. The Freshman Seminar is a mandatory transition course for freshman, covering study skills, research, campus resources and support services available to students, said Johathan Maisonpierre, director of the Office of Retention and Advisement.

"We will pay particular attention to culture and student learning styles in the freshman year," Mr. Maisonpierre said. "Freshman retention at UNCP is on the rise, but there is always room for improvement, especially at a school with so many first generation students."

The grants are part of the "Closing the Divide for College-Going Minorities" initiative. It is a five-year program aimed at closing education gaps in the Southeast, where BellSouth operates.

An additional benefit of the program will be several meeting per year of the partners to brainstorm and share success stories. BellSouth is committed to having a diverse workforce, and the grant program makes good business sense, said Ron Frieson, chief diversity officer for the company.

"Inclusion is good business in today's global marketplace," Mr. Frieson said. "At BellSouth, we are dedicated to sustaining a work environment where talent grows and inclusion is fostered. This commitment demonstrates an investment we have made to ensure we continue to have opportunities to recruit and employ people with diverse backgrounds."

Headquartered in Atlanta, BellSouth is a Fortune 100 company that provides communications services to more than 45 million customers. BellSouth Foundation is an endowed trust of the company that is devoted exclusively to education reform in the Southeast. It has funded over 535 grants valued at $46 million.