Gov. Charlie Baker visited Northeastern’s Boston campus Thursday to welcome students from across the U.S. who will spend the summer participating in programs organized by the United Negro College Fund in partnership with the university, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and local financial and life sciences companies.
“These are spectacular organizations, which I know are super excited to have a chance to get to know you, but you should also take advantage of the opportunity to get to know them,” Baker said.
UNCF’s “Lighted Pathways” and “Ernest E. Just” programs brought 45 students to Boston from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions. For 10 weeks, they will participate in paid internships at the area’s leading asset management and life sciences organizations, while living at Northeastern.
Baker said that participating institutions represent the “who’s who” in Massachusetts and Greater Boston. The students will intern at such organizations as Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Intellia Therapeutics, Fidelity Investments, Adage Capital Management, Wellington Management and Cambridge Associates.
“I can’t wait to have a chance to hear about your summers and what you did and what you learned. And you can feel free to also tell me the stuff that didn’t go quite the way it was supposed to go,” said Baker, also inviting the students to a closing dinner some time at the end of the summer.
The program could not have been possible without Baker, who understands the need to increase the number of Black students in asset management, finance, and bio and life science positions at companies in Greater Boston, said Ronald Walker, strategic advisor at United Negro College Fund New England.
“We value what you have to bring to the city and to the Commonwealth,” Walker told the students. “We are going to do our best to wrap our arms around you and create a sense of community.”
Kenneth Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern, said he is pleased the university will be home for the students for the duration of the program. Northeastern is grounded in making an impact in the world through research and education, he said.
“And a prerequisite for us in that success is intentionally bringing together people who bring diverse contexts, experiences and identity into the conversation,” Henderson said. “This program really identifies a lot of what we want to do at Northeastern, and a piece of the puzzle is diversifying sectors such as the finance sector and the biotech sector.”
Henderson thanked Karl Reid, Northeastern’s chief inclusion officer, Hazel Sive, dean of the College of Science, and Emery Trahan, interim dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, for working tirelessly with UNCF to put the program together. He announced that Northeastern is further working with UNCF to offer the 2022 “Lighted Pathways” and “Ernest E. Just” program participants fast-tracked admission into biotech and other master and doctoral degree programs.
Diego Aviles, vice president for the Northeast region at the UNCF, said that the “Lighted Pathways” and “Ernest E. Just” programs are aimed at closing the wealth gap and reducing disparity in healthcare for communities of color. That’s not going to improve if there are less than 2 percent of Black professionals in the workforce in those industries, he said.
“We feel that you trust the messenger sometimes over the message and that is why it is so critical to have people that look like the community you want to uplift in those roles,” Aviles said.
Besides internships, the program will engage students in activities that help them connect to the local Black community.
“We are believers in the African proverb ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,’” Aviles said. “If you feel like you belong, you will do better.”
Last week, the students had an orientation at the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern and visited the Museum of African American History, Aviles said. They also had a walking tour with Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity in Roxbury. A Red Sox game and trip to Martha’s Vineyard are also on the schedule.
UNCF has already started embarking on year two of selecting students for 2023 “Lighted Pathways” and “Ernest E. Just” programs, Aviles said, and the organization is looking for more companies interested in providing internship opportunities.
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