Design Insights: Early Impact from UNCF’s Career Pathways Initiative

For far too long, Black institutions, like Black communities, have been marginalized, under-resourced, ignored for their successes, and blamed for their shortcomings. We know that exploring innovation and design at HBCUs will be critical to advance equity in education. 

By providing outlets for institutions to quickly leverage both their inherent strengths and their understanding about the demands of the market, UNCF’s Career Pathways Initiative aims to position Black colleges to meet the needs of their students while they are enrolled, while setting them on a path to explore limitless futures beyond graduation.

In this brief, we share four examples—work and learnings from Norfolk State University, Xavier University, the Carolina Cluster, and Spelman College—for how human-centered design is helping colleges address their changing mandates as their students graduate into a rapidly changing employment ecosystem. With this lens, each of the participating institutions outlined plans to enhance the student experience and improve career outcomes by reimagining program delivery, strengthening institutional capacity, and embracing innovation.


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.

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.

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

Follow our work with UNCF on Twitter #CareerPathways

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