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Nike Invests $3 Million in Pensole Lewis College to Build Diverse Pipeline of Footwear Design Talent

Nike is making a major investment to diversify the pipeline of talent in the footwear industry.

The athletic giant will invest $3 million over the next three years in the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design, Michigan’s first and only HBCU focused on design. The college, which announced the news in a Wednesday morning Instagram post, said in the caption that the partnership will center on “building a talent pipeline for students who want careers in business and design — both at Nike and anywhere else these professionals can use the skills they acquire to create value.”

According to Pensole founder and president Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, the new program will offer free design education to diversify the pipeline of talent heading towards companies like Nike and other major brands. Edwards declined to comment on specifics regarding the partnership, but said there will be more details to come in the near future.

“Nike Inc.’s purpose is to move the world forward, breaking barriers and building community to change the game for all,” said Karol Collymore, Nike’s senior director of inclusive community for social and community impact. “The world needs more black and brown designers and leaders. That’s what makes Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design’s work so critical. We’re proud to support organizations like Pensole through our Black Community Commitment to continue to advance racial equality and opportunities to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs).”

Last year, Edwards reopened Detroit’s closed Lewis College of Business as the country’s first design-focused Historically Black College or University, renamed the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC).

In October, the school revealed in a statement that it would partner with College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit to gain legal and legislative approval needed to establish the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design, which includes designation as an accredited educational program. Also, an agreement is being drafted to establish a joint venture between CCS and PLC to allow PLC to offer accredited educational programs.

The investment from Nike marks the latest high-profile partnership for the new school. In February, Designer Brands Inc. announced a partnership with Pensole that included a $2 million investment to support the first Black-owned footwear factory and an exclusive distribution deal to sell products created in the factory in DSW stores. Designers of color from Pensole and the school’s broad network of diverse talent will create the designs for the shoes created in the factory.

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