Recent alumnus Jerail Fennell saw a need and, in keeping with Jacksonville University’s commitment to diversity, suggested that a Black Alumni Network could fill it.
“I wanted to fill a void because JU has a lot of alumni groups, but there weren’t many for people that look like me,” said Fennell, a 2016 alumni and GOLD Phin. “A lot of other universities had that, and JU didn’t, so I wanted to bring it to our campus.”
Chelsea Shackelford, the Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement for Reunions and Regional Events collaborated with Fennell to create a timeline to establish the Network during the 2019-2020 academic year. Currently the Black Alumni Network is in its founding phase, recruiting alumni volunteers and hosting interest meetings.
Fennell said the Black Alumni Network celebrates the Black community at JU and provides opportunities for students in the Black Student Union (BSU) who may need internships or jobs after graduation.
“JU already does a good job with diversity, but I would like to see more of us in places of employment,” Fennell said. “Whether that’s administration or academia so students have more people to see representation in.”
Shackelford said that when Fennell approached the Office of Alumni Engagement with the Black Alumni Network’s thoughts on creating alumni connections for Black students, they realized how important it could be.
“It is their mission to unite and represent the interests of both JU alumni and students while creating networking opportunities for alumni, making philanthropic investments in the university and providing mentorship programming for current Dolphins,” said Shackelford.
The Black Alumni Network will be one of JU’s alumni affinity groups, whose purpose is to support Jacksonville University and the Office of Alumni Engagement’s initiatives. They will strive to empower, connect, support, and celebrate JU’s black community and its rich history on our campus.
“To date, the Black Alumni Network partnered with BSU during Homecoming & Family week to host the first Black Alumni Panel and Networking Mixer featuring three notable alumni: Marvin Wells ’73, Jared Brooks ’10, and Shaun Lewis ’11,” Shackelford said.
In addition, the Black Alumni Network hosted a homecoming mixer with the Black Student Union and plans to participate in Porter Fest as well as the Student Inclusion Center’s annual Multicultural Graduation Celebration this April.
“As a result of these initial engagements, the Black Alumni Network Scholarship Fund has been officially established by the generous support of alumni,” said Shackelford. “Together with University Advancement, the Black Alumni Network aspires to raise $25,000 for the scholarship by 2025 to endow the scholarship to support minority students in perpetuity.”
If you would like to help ensure that every aspiring Dolphin, regardless of financial background, is able to receive the education they deserve, you can invest in diversity at Jacksonville University by making a gift to the Black Alumni Network Scholarship Fund. During our week of giving from April 13-17, Jacksonville University will introduce a special challenge to the Black Alumni Network. If 100 donors make a gift of any size to the Black Alumni Network Scholarship Fund, the University will donate an additional $10,000 to endow the scholarship.
On Facebook, the Black Alumni Network has grown to 310 members. You can join the Jacksonville University Black Alumni Network Facebook group to stay up to date on all news and events and connect with fellow Dolphins.
“Over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year, the Office of Alumni Engagement will hold three meetings to gauge interest of alumni to determine whether the group has enough support to sustain itself in perpetuity,” said Shackelford. “The topics of discussions range from brainstorming and goal setting, leadership expectations and responsibilities, to event planning and budgeting.
“All BSU students are invited to join the conversations at the Black Alumni Network interest meetings. They are the future of the affinity group and their opinions matter.”
If you are interested in playing an active role within the Black Alumni Network or want to ensure you are on the mailing list, please contact Chelsea Shackelford at firstname.lastname@example.org or (904) 256-7202.
By Christina Sumpter