Focus on the future with HBCUs

When Marie Timmons moved to the U.S. from France, she was looking for educational opportunities that would take her career aspirations to the next level. One of the colleges on her list to visit was Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C. What she found was so much more than she expected.

“We didn’t have historically Black colleges and universities in France,” said Marie, a senior manager, Aftermarket supplier management for Collins Aerospace in Charlotte. “It wasn’t something I was familiar with. On a campus visit, I met with the director of transfer students at Howard for an hour and half without even having an appointment. I quickly realized this was the firm, nurturing environment that I wanted to be in. To this day, Howard is my family.”

I’m humbled to be the program lead for the Collins 21CAP team for Howard University. As a program alum, I know how important it is see someone who looks like you or shares your experiences in a certain position to know that it’s possible for you to achieve the same goals. It’s important to give back to the next generation.”

Marie Timmons, senior manager – Aftermarket Supplier Management & Howard University graduate

Historically Black colleges and universities – or HBCUs – were created for Black Americans at a time when they were denied entrance into predominately white institutions due to the color of their skin. Today, there are more than 100 HBCUs across the U.S.

“My grandparents, aunts and uncles all lived through segregation,” said T’yanna Rouse, a leadership program associate and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (NC A&T) State University graduate. “Even now, with the opportunity to attend any institution we’d like, an HBCU provides you with a unique cultural and historical experience you can’t get anywhere else.”

“Attending an HBCU allowed me to get an experience I couldn’t get anywhere else. It gave me a unique connection to the Black experience, our ancestry and helped me build a lifelong network with other professionals who look like me.”

T'yanna Rouse, leadership program associate & North Carolina A&T University graduate

In addition to being an important piece of Black history, HBCUs play a critical role in producing high-achieving talent across a number of industries, including aerospace and engineering. In fact, 25% of Black Americans who earn degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields are HBCU graduates.

With the need for more diverse candidates across the industry, Collins Aerospace is investing time and money into introducing HBCU students to new career paths, networking opportunities and quality resources to help produce future aerospace leaders.

  • At Howard University, Collins is one of the sponsors for the 21st Century Advantage Program – or 21CAP – which is a business orientation class for first-year and transfer students. Participants are given direct access to Collins mentors as they embark on resume-building activities, business case competitions and other challenges that better prepare them for corporate careers.
  • At NC A&T University, Collins has committed $100,000 to help build a new engineering, research and innovation complex. The company has also committed to funding key research projects and helping shape the curriculum to better support students and position itself as an employer of choice for future graduates.

Although supporting such programs allows Collins to create and support a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, it also gives alumni like Marie a chance to give back to their alma mater.

“I tell my students all the time that there were a lot of people that invested in me along the way that I didn’t see or meet,” said Marie, who completed the 21CAP program as a student. “It’s important to give back and help the next generation. You never know where it will take them!”

"It feels great to work for a company that is committed to moving the needle on diversity, equity and inclusion by creating a pipeline of diverse talent within the organization. It’s one thing to talk about it, but Collins is investing its time and finances into programs like those at NC A&T University to do it. I’m excited to go back, mentor students and guide them along the way."

Cordell Charleston, director, Engineering Excellence & North Carolina A&T University graduate