With $26 Million Gift from Charles Koch Foundation, Thurgood Marshall College Fund Launches the Center for Advancing Opportunity

TMCFYesterday, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) launched a new center committed to expanding educational, social, and economic opportunities in fragile communities through original research and direct engagement with residents.

The Center for Advancing Opportunity, supported by a $25.6 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries, will provide undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, and grants to faculty working to establish university-based research centers on education, criminal justice, entrepreneurship, and other issues impacting opportunity in fragile communities. The Center will also partner with Gallup to capture the sentiments of individuals living in these communities.

“This is a momentous partnership. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are uniquely positioned to lead the field in this research,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of TMCF. “There are thousands of fragile communities across the United States where there are tremendous barriers to opportunity. And it’s important to recognize that lasting change to strengthen these communities must begin at the local level. We are proud to come together with the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries to help members of these communities identify and study the challenges most significant to them.”

The Center marks yet another initiative created by TMCF to advance opportunities to those who need it the most. Last year, TMCF partnered with Apple to launch the Apple HBCU Scholars Program so that HBCU students would have the opportunity to develop the skills, training and exposure needed to obtain jobs at leading tech companies.?

“Education transformed my life, and I’ve committed to do all I can to give others that same opportunity,” said Charles G. Koch, chairman of the board and CEO of Koch Industries Inc. “TMCF has made that same commitment. TMCF is giving students and scholars the chance to discover new ways to overcome barriers holding too many people back. As they succeed, so does our society.”

“The Center’s mission is worthy of the highest praise,” said Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup and chairman of TMCF’s board of directors. “Gallup is eager to cement our work with Koch and TMCF and begin an opportunity index, which will survey fragile communities to gather their sentiments on the most pressing issues facing them. We have high hopes that this wide-ranging research will complement the focused, in-depth research that the Center’s HBCU research centers and scholars have to offer.”

“HBCUs have long conducted research in fragile communities,” said Dr. Harry Lee Williams, member of TMCF’s board of directors and president of Delaware State University, an HBCU. “The Center’s mission signals a renewed commitment to researching the challenges and needs of the people who live in these communities. And as the president of an HBCU, I’m overjoyed to see this take flight.”

The Center will advance opportunity through the following activities:

??? ???? Original Research: Supporting faculty at HBCUs working to develop research centers studying critical issues.
??? ???? These campus research centers will help bring together multiple faculty members interested in education, criminal justice, and entrepreneurship.
??? ???? Support for the campus research centers will include funding for research initiatives and undergraduate students studying these topics.??
??? ???? Scholarships: Awarding scholarships to HBCU students pursuing careers in education, sociology, economics, and criminal justice research and fellowships that will allow graduate researchers to study and research issues related to barriers to opportunity.??
??? ???? On-Campus Programming: Supporting HBCU faculty working to bring speakers such as entrepreneurs, educators, and economists to campus to facilitate conversations for students about removing barriers and advancing opportunity. ??
??? ???? Research and Polling: Partnering with Gallup to create an opportunity index that will capture real sentiments of individuals living in fragile communities and foster public dialogue.??
??? ???? The State of Opportunity in America Forum: Convening HBCU researchers, faculty, and other national thought leaders annually to examine research findings and develop solutions.

(*With additional reporting by TNJ Senior Editor Sergie Willoughby)