Juniors and seniors from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) nationwide gathered to showcase their business acumen and creativity in a highly-competitive talent and skills tournament sponsored by fortune 500 insurance company Unum. The 2019 HBCU Innovation Challenge, held over a two-day period at Unum’s headquarters in Chattanooga, Tenn., featured 32 scholars, including six from Morgan State University, engaging in teamwork and creative thinking as they attempted to solve a real-world challenge facing the insurance industry. The event also provided the students with an opportunity to explore potential careers at Unum. All six of MSU’s students placed on the competition’s top performing teams, including two on the winning first place team.
Morgan student participants included:
- Evan Robertson, senior, Finance (1st place team)
- Kiley Williams, junior, Information Systems (1st place team)
- Martins Umeh, junior, Electrical and Computer Engineering (3rd pace team)
- Uchenna Emerson, senior, Electrical and Computer Engineering (3rd place team)
- Stanley Nwakamma, junior, Electrical and Computer Engineering (4th place team)
- Victor Oyare Oko, senior, Electrical and Computer Engineering (4th place team)
“This program gives high-performing, talented students the opportunity to solve real business problems, while gaining exposure to the employee benefits industry,” said Wade Hinton, vice president of Inclusion and Diversity at Unum. “It’s also a great way for us to identify potential talent.”
Unum, an employee benefits provider, partnered with The Company Lab to host the competition event, providing a platform for students to exercise their knowledge beyond the classroom by participating in simulations. Each simulation was designed to test participants’ ability to assess, analyze, develop a strategic solution and defend their case.
The Innovation Challenge required students to collaborate as they worked to develop and then pitch sound business solutions to issues that can occur in the real world. Meeting the challenge, Morgan’s students offered solid resolutions that consistently ranked atop the competitive field. By the end of the challenge, Morgan State University secured the highest number of competing participants on winning teams.
“It was a really great experience and the fact that they brought HBCU students together for a competition demonstrates a lot about the organization’s desire to make an impact by expanding the workforce for people of color,” said MSU student Evan Robertson. “Participating in this challenge has given me a new drive and, in every competition, you realize that the only competition is within yourself. After this experience, I am definitely mentally stronger.”
In all, the ability to innovate and take risks led Morgan’s Bear scholars to receive awards ranging from $5,000 for the first-place team, $3,000 for the second-place team, $1,500 for the third-place team and $500 for the 4th place team.
“The personal and professional relationships that I’ve built will last a lifetime, said Kiley Williams. “Seeing the work that the Unum team is doing daily and being able to interact with my peers and tap into their different knowledge spaces was an experience within itself.”