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Cultivating talent and providing opportunities to enrich the HBCU student experience. 

Cultivating talent and providing opportunities to enrich the HBCU student experience. 

LISC Alliance HBCU Talent Program

LISC and the Alliance partner on National HBCU Talent Development Internship Program

More than 300,000 students attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) each year and 80% of those enrolled at these institutions are Black. With over 100 HBCUs in the U.S. producing almost 20% of all Black graduates [1], it’s no question the vital role they play in educating our next generation and cultivating young Black talent. 

According to the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility, eighty-one percent of HBCUs are located in US counties where the median wage is below the national average and 65 percent of HBCUs are in geographic areas where past and projected net job growth is slower than average.[2]  Despite this, HBCUs continue to boost their students into higher-income quintiles, produce prominent leaders and cultural influencers, and serve as anchor institutions in their communities.  

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), one of the country’s largest Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) with strong partnerships that connect hard-to-tap public and private resources with underinvested places and people recognizes the unique value of these institutions and have teamed up with HBCUs across the nation and the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs (the Alliance) to help further bridge the opportunity gap for students of color. 

Through the National HBCU Talent Development Internship Program, a new program first announced in November of last year, the organizations will place 40 students in part-time intern positions with local LISC offices and other CDFIs to provide mentorship and experience.

CDFIs work to address community related challenges like housing, schools, health care centers, and small business growth, all things HBCUs look to address. The work of the CDFI industry touches practically every aspect of community life and oftentimes these institutions find themselves in the backyards of HBCUs. The harsh reality however is that too often, the people who staff and lead CDFIs do not look like the communities they serve, which are largely people of color, making the work of the Alliance and LISC that much more substantial. 

The Alliance, having brought together Black-Led CDFIs from all over the nation, view the National HBCU Talent Development Internship Program as a way to build awareness and capacity for their member CDFIs. 

Substantial had the opportunity to speak with Alliance President & CEO Lenwood V. Long, Sr., Anikka King, Senior Program Officer and Field Strategies for LISC, Rose Washington, CEO and Executive Director of TEDC Creative Capital (TEDC) and Erika Laster, Lincoln University student about the importance of the internship program and why HBCUs are in a unique position to accelerate Black economic mobility. 

Lenwood V. Long, Sr., President & CEO
The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs

“Both organizations recognize that ‘talent is everywhere but opportunity is not’ as Denise Scott, President of LISC so eloquently shares,” said Lenwood V. Long, Sr. president & CEO of the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs. “Because the Alliance is a growing member-based organization of CDFIs with 88+ members and considering that LISC is one of the nation’s largest CDFIs, we believe that this partnership will increase the pipeline of diverse talent for CDFIs while offering paid professional experience to diverse undergraduate students of color. This partnership will also provide students with a great experience and expose them to the work and impact of organizations in the economic development sector that directly impact the communities they’re in.”  

“We are stronger together, and this partnership embodies just that. We’re meeting students where they are and want to provide an opportunity that they can hold onto, in a community that needs them.” 

Lenwood V. Long, Sr.
Anikka King, Senior Program Officer and Field Strategies
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

Anikka King, Senior Program Officer and Field Strategies for LISC leads the organization’s strategic economic development plan and also leads small businesses support, workforce development and related initiatives for the organization and she believes this is a vital opportunity to ensure CDFIs are building a talent pool for the next generation of people that are in the community and economic development space. 

“Because we’re able to go right into the HBCUs, we’re able to help students who oftentimes are connected to the issues in the communities. We’re being very intentional by partnering with HBCUs,” said King. “Students will receive real life and real time experience in serving communities of color, connections to professionals in the CDFI industry, along with growth opportunities and the potential for transition into full-time roles within CDFIs.” 

King shared with us that the program currently is seeking undergraduate juniors and seniors at HBCUs and there is a 15- to 20-hour time commitment per week, for up to two semesters. Each intern is paid $25 per hour, and there are currently two types of opportunities available for HBCU students: 1) internships with a local LISC office or a national LISC program; and 2) internships with CDFIs in LISC’s national network of partners, including the Alliance members.

Interns will support a range of initiatives, from marketing to finance to community engagement, and placements are made based on geographic location and alignment with students’ academic and professional interests. 

We connected with Erika Laster, a Lincoln University student who’s participating in the program and she spoke highly about the experience and knowledge she’s gained about the CDFI industry and the great work that they do within the communities they serve. 

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 “This internship has gone above and beyond. I’ve learned that my career should go beyond self-interest,” said Laster. “I have the ability to create lasting change for communities. Working in the office environment has helped me hone a number of skills and set expectations of what having a career entails.”

Erika Laster, a Lincoln University
Rose Washington, CEO and Executive Director
TEDC Creative Capital (TEDC)

“Creating a quality talent pipeline for CDFIs is critically essential. Now that our industry is positioned to offer competitive salaries, challenging work, and growth opportunities to the best and brightest Black talent,” said Rose Washington, CEO and Executive Director of TEDC Creative Capital (TEDC). TEDC, founded in 1979 as Tulsa Economic Development Corporation, is an organization charged with promoting and sustaining small business growth in Tulsa. Through partnerships with communities, organizations, governments, and the private sector support TEDC’s efforts to affect diverse, inclusive, and equitable economic prosperity has certainly made a Substantial impact. Over the past five years they’ve been able to provide or locate more than $150 million to help nearly 300 small businesses start, expand or sustain.

“We must now build awareness so that HBCU students know that this industry exists. The work and impact of CDFIs will speak for themselves, but we must promote internship opportunities as a primer. While the impact of CDFIs is evident to the communities we serve, our uniqueness has not been promoted from a talent acquisition perspective.” 

Rose Washington

The National HBCU Talent Development Internship Program, supported by Citi Foundation and MacKenzie Scott has partnered with the following HBCUs across the nation: Morehouse College (Atlanta), Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte), Wayne State University (Detroit), Edward Waters University (Jacksonville), Simmons College of Kentucky (Louisville), Lemoyne-Own College (Memphis), Lincoln University (Philadelphia), Virginia State University (Virgina), and Howard University (Washington D.C.). This is a list that King hopes to continue to grow over the life of the program. 

It’s apparent that creating a diverse talent pool of qualified candidates experienced in the CDFI sector is essential to the work being done to close the racial wealth gap and service underserved communities. It will take unique partnerships and programs like this one providing on-the-job training opportunities and developing direct pipelines for employment in partnership with HBCUs and CDFIs to make substantial steps in the fight to reduce racial and social inequities when it comes to diverse talent making it in the financial sector.

You can learn more about the National HBCU Talent Development Internship Program by visiting or contacting You can also learn more about the Alliance by visiting

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