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CISCO MAKES $5 MILLION COMMITMENT TO EMPOWER THE NEXT GENERATION OF BLACK ENTREPRENEURS

Gaby M. Rojas

The commitment will advance the Center for Black Entrepreneurship, housed at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, and catalyze the Center’s graduate-level programming at Clark Atlanta University.

The Black Economic Alliance Foundation (BEA Foundation), a national nonprofit organization that promotes generational wealth-building for the Black community, announced a funding partnership with Cisco, a leading systems technology company. The commitment includes over $4 million in grants and direct technical services toward the development of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship (CBE) and $1 million towards the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund. Cisco’s commitment advances the future development of the CBE’s graduate programming at Clark Atlanta University and expands current CBE programming at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, supporting the next generation of Black entrepreneurial talent in the Atlanta area.


“The Center for Black Entrepreneurship and the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund are tangible solutions to advance work, wages, and wealth across the Black community,” says Samantha Tweedy, president of the Black Economic Alliance Foundation. “We’re thankful to Cisco for their generous support and strategic partnership in advancing the vision of the CBE and investing in Black entrepreneurs who will multiply prosperity for our community and, in so doing, grow the American economy.”


“Preserving the legacy and sustainability of Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a global, companywide priority for us,” says Fran Katsoudas, chief People, Policy and Purpose Officer and Executive Vice President at Cisco. “By supporting the Center for Black Entrepreneurship launch and establishing the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund, Cisco hopes to inspire Black entrepreneurs of the future from three of our nation’s most prestigious HBCUs, putting our social justice beliefs into action. Today’s announcement is part of Cisco’s unique, sustaining commitment of over $150 million as part of our partnership with HBCU’s across the country, strengthening our workforce and providing access to education and technology.”


The Cisco grant evenly allots $3 million across endowed faculty positions for the expansion of CBE programming at Spelman College and Morehouse College and the establishment of CBE graduate-level programming at Clark Atlanta University—whose predecessor institution, Atlanta University, was the first in the nation to award graduate degrees to Black Americans. The investment also includes up to $1 million in financial contributions toward the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund. The Fund provides capital to Black entrepreneurs and small business owners, and a portion of it is earmarked for applicants who are graduates of the CBE. Cisco will also donate technology products and services valued at over $1 million to all three institutions.


“We are elated to join hands with Morehouse, Spelman, and the BEA Foundation to expand the impact of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship through the introduction of graduate school programming,” said George T. French, Jr., Ph.D., President of Clark Atlanta University. “This new endeavor aligns with Clark Atlanta University’s legacy of higher education leadership by extending access to aspiring entrepreneurs who have already completed their bachelor’s degrees and are seeking to deepen their business knowledge and proficiencies.”


The announcement comes on the heels of a special event held on the campuses of Spelman College and Morehouse College, which included “demo day” presentations of compelling business concepts by students in Spelman’s Innovation Lab and a roundtable discussion in the Ray Charles Center on Morehouse’s campus. The conversation, moderated by BEA co-founders Dr. Tony Coles and Charles Phillips, included Dr. David Thomas, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell (Former President, Spelman College), Melissa Bradley (Interim Director of the CBE; Founder, 1863 Ventures), Aaron Holiday (Co-Founder and Managing Partner, 645 Ventures) and Alfred McRae, (President, Bank of America Atlanta).

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