Pensole Academy Partners With Historically Black Colleges to Develop Talent for Footwear & Apparel

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Pensole Academy has launched L.E.A.D. (Leaders Emerge After Direction) by Design, a new program partnering with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to introduce students of color to careers in footwear and technical apparel, while providing the industry with a more diverse talent base.

“This new program provides the footwear industry and functional apparel industry with a new, nontraditional source for diverse talent,” said D’Wayne Edwards, founder of Pensole. “It also provides HBCU students visibility in careers they might not have known about before because those options were not made available through their schools. Our goal is to break down those barriers of disconnection and to connect the students to the industry, and the industry to a more diverse talent pipeline.”

L.E.A.D. by Design is a different, longer format than most Pensole master classes. Anna Smith, director of education for Pensole, created the new format to offer students the opportunity to attend the program without interfering with enrollment at their primary educational institution. The program includes three seminars that will take place from March through November, in addition to online instruction. It is made possible in part by a grant from The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust.

Up to 60 applicants will be chosen to participate. Thirty of the students will then advance to Seminar B, an in-person master class, hosted by the Industrial Design Department, College of Design at North Carolina State University. The class will teach students what it is like to work on a professional product-creation team.

Lastly, there is Seminar C, Survey of Design Practices. Looking to product designers of color throughout history as precedents for its coursework, students will create business cards and portfolios to submit for internship opportunities or entry-level jobs in the industry.

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