Rutgers GSE CMSI

Announcing the Inaugural Cohort of Mary Ellen Pleasant Entrepreneur Fellows!

Philadelphia, Pa., February 11, 2019 —The Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), in partnership with minority-owned recruitment marketing platform, The Whether, is proud to announce the inaugural cohort of fellows in the Mary Ellen Pleasant Entrepreneur (MEPE) Fellowship program.

  • Aden Coleman, Morgan State University
  • Ahmed Ali, North Carolina A&T University
  • Asante Gadson, Morehouse College
  • Biruk Abate, Jackson State University
  • Carl Wesley Smith, North Carolina Central University
  • Deandra Simpson, Fayetteville State University
  • Destinee Filmore, Spelman College
  • Dorian Holmes, North Carolina A&T University
  • Jabari Hopson, Morehouse College
  • Jai'lyn Richardson, Tennessee State University
  • Jameerah Ali, North Carolina Central University
  • Jasmine King, Jackson State University
  • Kanita Hutchinson, Tennessee State University
  • Keneisha Wiggan, Claflin University
  • Khalia Fernandez, Morgan State University
  • Lyjiria Lacy, Dillard University
  • Markia Brown, Albany State University
  • Mauriac Alapino, Morgan State University
  • Monica Geter, Benedict College
  • Mya Jacobs, Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Somto Nweke, Morgan State University
  • Taylor Ford, North Carolina Central University
  • Victoria Bryant, Paul Quinn College
  • William "Ben" Rogers, Fayetteville State University
  • Zaire Jenkins, North Carolina Central University

Photos and brief biographies for each of the selected fellows can be found here.

The MEPE Fellowship aims to increase future entrepreneurs from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and is part of a $775,000 Innovations in Career Advising grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. HBCU students have the opportunity to build a peer advising startup through a 10-week virtual fellowship during the Spring 2019 semester with the help of The Whether’s virtual business and marketing-focused curriculum and their scientifically-validated Clarity Assessment.

The Clarity Assessment is focused on sharpening the critical thinking skills of students about their post-secondary life. The fellows will be responsible for introducing the assessment on campus to professors, student organizations, and individuals. Per the grant, their main goal is to gather feedback and help their peers, while also experimenting with various business principles to maximize their reach.

The Whether Founder and CEO, Chris Motley shares, “We received over 300 applications with more than 80 making it to the interview round. Our team made a very conscious effort to consider a diverse set of criteria that went beyond major and GPA.”

As The Whether narrowed down who to choose for the fellowship, they took into account multiple factors:

  • Interview preparedness
  • Interview execution
  • On-campus involvement
  • Bonus task completion in the application
  • Clarity Assessment professional values and key strengths
  • Responsiveness to messages
  • School Leadership Engagement

The result was a class with 64% women, 40% having a dominant professional value of Taking Risks (compared with < 5% on average) from 14 different schools.

Throughout the fellowship, fellows will learn key startup principles and the components to successful and sustainable entrepreneurship, participate in a virtual curriculum on marketing, the customer funnel, virtually collaborate with the Whether’s peer advising platform across partner institutions, and experiment with innovative techniques to assist students on campus in identifying career paths and interests.

Fellows will keep track of their impact on campus by measuring the number of students they’ve reached, those who have completed their Clarity assessment, and those who have provided feedback about the effectiveness of their peer advising startup.

“This fellowship is distinct because it has been developed particularly for HBCU students to serve HBCU students; we are so excited to offer this opportunity and to work alongside The Whether,” says Marybeth Gasman, the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

The program will allow fellows to earn up to $2,500 based on metrics and feedback from their campus community.

About The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions
The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. The Center’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. For further information about the Center, please visit

About The Whether

The Whether is a recruitment marketing platform that helps university recruiters build and nurture diverse talent pipelines. It recommends diverse candidates to employers through employer-generated career content that is targeted to students based on their soft-skills, strengths, and values. Our values-based approach and automated content marketing engine saves companies 75% of recruiting spend while personalizing the candidate experience at scale. Based in St. Louis, we’re on a mission to scale career education for all college students and make recruiting them easier. For further information about the Whether, please visit

Monday, February 11, 2019
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