UNCF Institute for Capacity Building

How might our institutions provide intentional and sustainable pathways to build 21st century competencies and help our students find meaningful employment in their desired career field?


UNCF is missioned to build a robust and nationally-recognized pipeline of under-represented students who, because of UNCF support, become highly-qualified college graduates and to ensure that our network of member institutions is a respected model of best practice in moving students to and through college. Since April 2018, the Lab has collaborated with UNCF to accelerate the development of programs that will strengthen the capacity of institutions to meet students’ career development needs now and in the future. Our work with UNCF currently includes three initiatives:

  1. Career Pathways Initiative Cohort 1: 2019-2020, 14 institutions
  2. Career Pathways Initiative Cohort 2: 2020-2021, 8 institutions
  3. Liberal Arts Innovation Centers: 2020 – 2021, 4 institutions

Career Pathways Initiative

Cohort 2: 2020 - 2021

In the second cohort of the Career Pathways Initiative, UNCF supported eight institutions through the planning phase of the second iteration of the Initiative. Each institution was funded to develop a plan to reimagine campus infrastructure to promote long-term institutional transformation and increase student success.

Cohort 1: 2019 - 2020

Since April 2018, the Lab has collaborated with UNCF to accelerate the development of programs that will strengthen the capacity of institutions to meet students’ career development needs now and in the future. The “ACCELERATE Cohort” is made up of 14 colleges and universities participating in UNCF’s Career Pathways Initiative. Leveraging human-centered design, the Lab facilitated the campus teams through a series of design sessions that explored employment outcomes for Black graduates, best practices in career development, and labor market data and applied insights to the iteration of pilot concepts. These sessions also focused on how to create a culture of innovation that is constantly iterating to meet student needs. As a result, our UNCF partners better understand the potential for their pilots to make a sustainable impact on how their colleges prepare students for their lives after graduation. 

As of May 2020, we have supported seven universities in the launch of accelerated pilots on-campus.

These projects, which vary in their focus, have given us a wealth of knowledge that continues to inform future programming and strategy. Our remaining pilots are still in development, with plans to launch in fall 2020 and spring 2021. We believe that these models complement any institutional strategy to reimagine how colleges and universities can best support students as they pursue meaningful careers.

Norfolk State University Learning Communities: Theme- and discipline-based residential communities that connect students to faculty mentors and career exploration opportunities in the first year

Xavier University First-Year Career Exploration: Career development and exploration activities integrated into the university’s first-year experience courses and advising philosophy

Tougaloo College Employer Relations Council: A cross-functional committee comprising of faculty, administrators, students, and employers designed to align student and employer expectations with curriculum development

Morehouse College Career Council: A cross-departmental committee collaborating to create an institutional strategy around career development and its relationship to the core curriculum

Rust College Peer Coaching Program: A peer-to-peer coaching experience where upperclassmen mentor freshmen, sophomores, and juniors on career development, including career exploration, resume development, and professionalism

University of West Alabama UWA 201 Course: A university seminar focused on educating students about the 21st century skills that they will need to be successful in science careers

Florida Memorial University’s Microcredentials Accelerating Nascent Employment (MANE) Program: A strategic push to incorporate industry certifications, badges, and microcredentials  into curricular offerings

Liberal Arts Innovation Centers


UNCF’s Liberal Arts Innovation Centers includes supporting 4 institutions to build a model and roadmap for the implementation of the four Liberal Arts Innovation Centers that have been funded to focus on integrating the technical disciplines of growth industries within the liberal arts.

How might we co-design a teaching and learning framework and laboratory that builds on the inherent strengths of  HBCUs and deepens the capacity of educators to leverage the liberal arts curriculum and prepare students to succeed in a skills-based economy?

To get in touch, contact our team at

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