White Schools, Black Advocates - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Ten years after joining a pre-professional organization in her field, Jennifer Webb is still reaping the benefits. Toward the end of her junior year at the University of Minnesota, Webb had the opportunity to attend the 1998 Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences Regional conference.

That year, a recruiter for the U.S. Department of Agriculture offered her a summer internship. At the end of the internship they asked her to return for another internship next summer, offered to pay the remainder of her tuition, and offered her a permanent job upon graduation. But Webb, who had already had a full scholarship, was still hesitant.

“At first I did not recognize the opportunity that I was given. I just wanted something to do for the summer,” says Webb, who originally had her mind set on going directly to graduate school and then getting a Ph.D. in food microbiology or food science research.

The next summer, the USDA recruiter and MANRRS member became her mentor and helped her navigate the government politics and bureaucracy. He convinced her to stay with the USDA and delay applying to graduate school.

“He knew from my personality that I was more people-oriented and that a lot of the positions in research were not. He told me [I didn’t want to get] pigeonholed as a researcher,” Webb says. “He also helped me understand the broad range of the field that I was in. I just knew, R&D, quality assurance, and sensory.”

Instead, helped by her mentor’s influence, Webb worked her way up the career ladder and eventually enrolled in a mid-career program at the University of Maryland where she received a master’s degree in public policy in 2008. Now, as a consumer safety officer at the USDA, Webb enjoys working with colleagues to assist in the development of new food safety policies and travels as an instructor teaching food inspectors across the country.

Webb is an example of a black student who achieved academic success and graduated from a traditionally white university (TWI). Although black people are attending TWIs at higher rates than they are attending HBCUs, studies show that they are not completing their degrees at TWIs at the same rate as black students attending HBCUs. Research also shows that the more engaged students are, academically and socially, the more likely they are to have higher GPAs than students who are not.

Roger L. Pulliam, founder of the National Black Student Union, an organization formed to enhance the quality of life for undergraduate college students at white schools, and colleague Richard McCregory, director of the McNair Scholars Program, both at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, are not as much concerned about graduation rates as they are about how well a student is able to use their education to transition into a successful career.

“When we say successful academically, we mean not just successful in the sense that they will be retained and graduate, but also successful

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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