Morgan Students Excel in Career-Cultivating Fellowships
Professional Fellows Programs Tap Talented Scholars, Creating New Pipeline for Career Development, Placement
Growing up among farmers and fisherfolk in a coastal community in the Caribbean island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nikelene McLean experienced up close the dangers posed by global warming.
“I was always aware of the value of the coastal environment in terms of the value it provided to our economy, to the society and to the environment as a whole,” she says. “But I also witnessed its degradation as a result of the many manifestations of climate change as it relates to sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion, coral bleaching, coastal degradation generally, and the fact that poor management strategies allowed these problems to proliferate.”
As a teenager, McLean became an environmental activist, and as her graduation from Saint Vincent Girls High School approached, she decided to sharpen her skills for that work by pursuing her higher education at Morgan State University — an institution she had become quite familiar with: she had family members who had attended Morgan, so she was no stranger to the University’s sound platform for students in advanced scientific technology and Morgan’s strong record of research in coastal ecology. McLean earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology, summa cum laude, at Morgan and is now a Ph.D. candidate in Bioenvironmental Sciences, finalizing her research project in the Chesapeake Bay region under the guidance of Chunlei Fan, Ph.D., at Morgan’s Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory (PEARL).
This past July, McLean became the first-ever Morgan student accepted to the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program, which offers educational and employment opportunities to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and the national policy decisions affecting those resources. Her one-year fellowship, including a job placement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information Service, will begin in February.
McLean’s new position exemplifies a trend: a burgeoning number of career-pipeline opportunities offered to MSU students through professional Fellows programs that cultivate young talent through focused experiential training and enrichment. Among the recent awardees are:
- Oyin Adedoyin (School of Global Journalism and Communication, Multimedia Journalism) – The Chronicle of Higher Education Reporting Fellow
- Martin Adu-Boahene (Graves School of Business and Management, Information Systems) – Kirchner Food Fellowship HBCU Inaugural Cohort Member
- Oluwatofunmi Akinniranye (Graves School of Business and Management, Accounting) – Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) 2021–2022 Scholar
- Dunsin Fadojutimi (Mitchell School of Engineering, Electrical Engineering) – Transportation Research Board (TRB) 2022 Minority Student Fellow
- Peter Iwuh (School of Global Journalism and Communication, Strategic Communications) – Facebook HBCU Summer News Fellows
- Brian Jeffries (School of Global Journalism and Communication, Multimedia Journalism) and Sydney Smith (College of Liberal Arts, Political Science) – The HistoryMakers 2021–2022 Student Brand Ambassadors
- Cayla Sweazie (School of Global Journalism and Communication, Multimedia Journalism) – 2021–2022 Rhoden Fellow
- Jamar Culbreath and Ajulae Saddler (Graves School of Business and Management, Master of Business Administration) – Racial Inclusion and Social Equity (RISE) Fellows/Marsh McLennan
- Oluwagbemisola Adeyemo, Michael Bradford-Calhoun, Zaire Dartis and Sidney McLeod (Graves School of Business and Management, Accounting) – HBCUvc Fellows
Martin Adu-Boahene came to the U.S. after his upbringing in Kumasi, Ghana. Urged by his mother to become a doctor, he had been drawn to social studies but developed an interest in technology then business during his high school years in Kumasi. After coming to the U.S. and arriving at Morgan, he chose information systems as his major. Now a junior in Morgan’s Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management, he has served in a number of internships — with KPMG, Maryland TEDCO, Citi and T. Rowe Price — to move him toward his goal of a successful business career. This past July, he became one of three students selected for the inaugural HBCU Cohort of the Kirchner Food Fellowship, an initiative of the Kirchner Impact Foundation designed to have millennial college students work as impact venture capitalists, finding, funding and assisting promising socially responsible, for-profit agricultural businesses to advance global food security.
“It’s going really well,” says Adu-Boahene, who adds that the program has given him the opportunity to merge the familiarity he gained with agriculture in Ghana with his passion for technology and entrepreneurship. As the HBCU Cohort, “we have an investment mandate, and for this year we are looking to invest in a revenue-generating company that improves the nutritional health of predominantly Black communities.”
Joseph Wells, director of Master’s Programs for the Graves School, says he has noted a “general uptick” in the number of career-pipeline fellowships awarded to Morgan students since the summer of 2020. One reason for that, he says, “is that as we talk with employer partners, we’re looking for earlier engagement. And I think they’re also looking for earlier engagement. So the sooner that we can get students into professional settings where they’re interning or they’re working, it helps the placement process, because students are more prepared, and they’ve got experience they can leverage, whether it’s with the particular partner that they’re interning with or whether it’s (another employer).”
Through fellowships or internships, “the student gets great experience and exposure, and the company gets a first look,” Wells adds. “So if they decide to hire the student full time, they’ve taken a lot of the guesswork out. ‘Is this person going to show up on time? Is this person going to work hard? Can this person adapt?’, etc. So they can make smarter and faster decisions.”
Dean Jacqueline Jones of Morgan’s School of Global Journalism and Communication (SGJC) says career-pipeline fellowships and internships are more than valuable in her field.
“They’re critical,” says Jones. “You absolutely cannot get a job in journalism or public relations or production today without having had an internship or some sort of training program. And one is usually not enough, because when our students graduate, they are competing against students who have had two, three, maybe even four internships or have been in training programs before they get hired.”
Fortunately, career-pipeline fellowship opportunities for Morgan students are multiplying, but that’s not by happenstance, Jones says: “We have enough of a name and reputation, now, that (employers) call us, and they are more interested in programs to groom the students to be the employees they want. They are more interested in talking to us about creating (career) pipelines…. They work with us, give us some sense of what the expectations for the students are in their workplaces, and we can make sure (our school’s) programs contain the content that will help the students succeed.”
Oyin Adedoyin, May 2021 graduate of Morgan’s Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Journalism program, is another beneficiary of the trend of increasing partnerships between MSU and employers. Ambitious, talented and assertive, she had a number of impressive employment experiences during her undergraduate years, among them internships with the Baltimore Sun and Mid-Atlantic Media and a fellowship with The Wall Street Journal. During her senior year, she was selected to begin a reporting fellowship with The Chronicle of Higher Education immediately after graduation. In that current post, Adedoyin says, she gravitates toward reporting on HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions, “because they are places I have familiarity with, and they’re places I have understanding of.”
“Classes are great, but you have to kind supplement what you learn in the classroom with a real-world opportunity. And I think that’s what the fellowships and internships have definitely been able to give me…,” Adedoyin says. “The more experiences you’re able to have, the more internships and the more relationships you’re able to cultivate with different publications, and the easier it gets. So I feel incredibly lucky, but I always feel that I was pushed by my teachers and by advisers and deans to seek out those opportunities.”
McLean and Adu-Boahene also credit Morgan for providing unmatched career opportunities.
“…That intersection of science, policy, outreach and technology, that’s the sphere that I am most comfortable in. And I think that Morgan State University has offered me the exposure to all of those arenas,” says McLean.
“Coming to Morgan State has been one of the best decisions that I’ve made so far, looking at the experiences that I’ve been able to acquire…,” says Adu-Boahene. “I don’t think I would have been able to get all these experiences at any other school. So I’m really appreciative of being a part of the Morgan family. And I look forward to also paying it forward as well.”