Johnson C. Smith Puts Spotlight on Innovation, Economic Development

Johnson C. Smith Puts Spotlight on Innovation, Economic Development

Earlier this month Johnson C. Smith University hosted the annual HBCU Case Summit, the purpose of which is to strengthen ties between historically black colleges in the Carolinas:

  • Bennett College
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Johnson C. Smith University
  • Livingstone College
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • North Carolina Central University
  • Saint Augustine’s University
  • Shaw University
  • Winston-Salem State University

And in South Carolina:

  • Allen University
  • Benedict College
  • Claflin University
  • Clinton College
  • Denmark Technical College
  • Morris College
  • South Carolina State University
  • Voorhees College

Rep. Alma Adams gave the keynote address, speaking on the economic impact of HBCUs, recently revealed in a groundbreaking report released by UNCF: HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

(L-R: Terik Tidwell, Rep. Alma Adams, Dr. Hang Chen and JCSU President Ronald Carter. Image: Johnson C. Smith University)


According to the report, “the nation’s HBCUs generate $14.8 billion in economic impact annually; that’s equivalent to a ranking in the top 200 on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations.” As far as employment, HBCUs generate more than 134,000 jobs. The report states, “Looked at a different way, each $1 million initially spent by an HBCU and its students creates 13 jobs.”

In a spirited panel discussion, “HBCU Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development,” panelists Mark Little, executive director of Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise at UNC; Chad Womack, national director of Innovation, Commercialization, & Entrepreneurship at UNCF; Doug Speight, CEO of American Underground; and Terik Tidwell, director of STEM Innovation at JCSU, discussed how HBCUs can leverage their economic impact to tell their story; and how the next generation of our best entrepreneurs is at HBCUs, and how it needs to be cultivated.


Panelists also called on more HBCUs to take action to develop student entrepreneurs and innovators.

Tech Pipeline


JCSU also recently announced that it has received $1.8 million in grants to develop a K-16 STEM initiative that will prepare middle and high school students to succeed in STEM.

(from Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute Extension at JCSU, a pre-college summer program. Image: Johnson C. Smith University)


The Kenan Charitable Trust has granted $1,100,000, and the Department of Education, $738,000 to develop JCSU’s Access to Innovation Initiative. The initiative will be piloted in two local schools and will involve after-school enrichment classes, dual enrollment, mentorship, and summer sessions at the renowned HBCU.


(JSCU hacking team at Black Enterprise BE Smart Hackathon. Image: Johnson C. University)


“This initiative is about co-creation, impact, and scalability,” Tidwell is quoted as saying in a statement. “It will increase the density of access and the propensity of innovation for students in and around the university.”

For more about innovation at JCSU, visit its website.