Michelle Obama, Spotify, and Others Urge Students to Beat the Odds

Last week, first lady Michelle Obama spoke with students about successfully navigating college at a Beating the Odds Summit held at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

Spotify, the digital music service, teamed up with the former first lady to help 35 area high school students prepare for a successful freshman year and beyond. Reach Higher at Civic Nation also participated in the daylong event.

Beating the Odds

Obama wasn’t the only one urging the students to persevere through college. Spotify executives including Troy Carter, vice president of Creator Services at Spotify (who will also be a speaker at the 2017 Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit); and Danielle Lee, vice president of Partner Solutions, “shared their experience of overcoming obstacles and lessons learned on their personal and professional journeys….” The idea was to inspire the students to consider careers in tech, according to a statement from Spotify.

Through college transition workshops and panel discussions, students got the scoop about college. Spotify execs participated on a career exploration panel and another on the role of music in culture. Travis Robinson, who heads Talent Diversity and Campus Recruiting at Spotify, moderated the career panel; Chad Foster, manager of Original Content & Podcasts at Spotify, led the panel on music culture.

The day included a musical performance by R&B artist Kevin Ross.

I spoke with Robinson to learn more.

Spotify Shares Insights with Students

“Spotify is prioritizing diversity and inclusion,” he told me. “Our student outreach efforts are to first generation and underrepresented kids.”

Robinson said the Spotify teams is thrilled to partner with other organizations doing this same work, such as Beating the Odds, Let Girls Learn, Better Make Room, and Reach Higher. “This partnership is exactly what we were looking for,” he said.


“We want to reach students of diverse backgrounds and experiences to tell them about career opportunities within the tech industry, to let them know that the industry is a great place to work.”

Spotify is doing significant work with historically black colleges—bringing in 100 students to hear from senior leaders at the company, and providing workshops that drill down into what career opportunities look like.

(Michelle Obama’s ‘Day of the Girl’ Spotify playlist)

“We have careers in engineering, design, advertising, marketing,” said Robinson. “This event married the culture of what we’re doing to advocate that students sign up for college. It’s important for them to see people who look like them being successful. The Beating the Odds Summit was not only a great opportunity for us to hear from Michelle Obama but also from the students,” he continued.

“If we’re able to leverage our experience of overcoming obstacles, it will make a difference in the lives of others.”

To learn more about Spotify’s work with HBCUs, visit this website.