“Taking the Pulse of Procurement Professionals: The State of Supplier Diversity in Higher Education”

Third report issued by the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, focuses on buyer perspectives.

by Natalie Bowers

The Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship has published its third major research report, “Taking the Pulse of Procurement Professionals: The State of Supplier Diversity in Higher Education.” This study provides valuable insights into the current landscape of supplier diversity in higher education institutions across the United States.  

The research highlights the significant gap between the commitment to supplier diversity and its actual implementation. While many institutions express strong support for diverse suppliers, the operationalization of this commitment often falls short. Through a detailed survey of 101 procurement professionals and subsequent focus groups, we have identified key themes that underscore the challenges and opportunities in this critical area.  

Key Findings 

Commitment vs. Implementation. A significant number of respondents indicated a disparity between their institution’s stated commitment to supplier diversity and the practical steps taken to achieve it.  

Obstacles. Limited resources, complex procurement processes, and difficulty in identifying qualified diverse suppliers are major barriers.  

Strategic Initiatives. Some institutions are making notable progress by adopting strategic and tactical approaches to enhance supplier diversity.  

Training Opportunities. There is a clear need for more comprehensive training and awareness programs for procurement staff and other stakeholders.  

Capacity Building. Positive experiences with diverse suppliers highlight the potential for these suppliers to compete more effectively with the right support and opportunities.  

In addition to the study, the Lab also supported the build of a Supplier Diversity Chatbot. Masters of Information Security Student, Divya Musale, who worked on the creation of the ChatBot, said, “The development of our AI-powered Supplier Chatbot is crucial as it significantly simplifies the procurement information process for Northeastern University. By consolidating scattered and often unclear information into a single, user-friendly interface, it addresses a major challenge faced by business owners, especially new suppliers. This streamlining reduces the time and effort required to navigate the procurement procedures, making it more efficient and less frustrating.”

Masters of Information Security Student (’24) and Software Engineer, Divya Musale

“The potential effect of this work is profound. This fosters greater inclusivity and supports Northeastern University’s mission of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. The improved access to procurement information can lead to more businesses partnering with the university, thereby enriching the institution’s procurement ecosystem and supporting its operational needs more effectively.”
 

The report offers actionable strategies to bridge the gap between policy and practice, overcome obstacles, and build effective supplier diversity programs. It also emphasizes the importance of continuous education and training to foster an inclusive procurement environment.  

We invite you to read the full report to explore the detailed findings and recommendations. Together, we can advance supplier diversity in higher education, driving innovation, competition, and economic sustainability.  

Access the full report.
  

About the Lab

The Northeastern Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship is dedicated to supporting small businesses in socially and economically disadvantaged communities through technical and managerial assistance. Our mission is to promote inclusive and equitable innovation and entrepreneurship.  

Faculty Spotlight: Arlene Buchanan, Associate Director of Employer Engagements and Partnerships Outreach

by Natalie Bowers

Arlene Buchanan, Associate Director of Employer Engagements and Partnerships Outreach, is excited to develop strategic partnerships that offer students transformative real-world experiences and to connect talented students with industry leaders, providing opportunities that enhance their career prospects and deliver fresh, innovative perspectives to our partners. Buchanan’s role matters because it ensures our students are well-prepared for the workforce while contributing to the growth and success of the organizations we collaborate with.

“Northeastern University stands out by providing industry-aligned co-op experiences that significantly increase employability – boom, the ROI. I am proud of the impactful work we are doing and excited about the contributions I can make in this role.”

– Arlene Buchanan

Conversations about the value of a college degree have become increasingly common, with students and their families questioning the ROI of higher education. With over a decade of experience in higher education, Buchanan understands the importance and value of a degree and aligning with institutions that prioritize this outcome.

She said, “Northeastern University stands out by providing industry-aligned co-op experiences that significantly increase employability – boom, the ROI. I am proud of the impactful work we are doing and excited about the contributions I can make in this role.”

Developing Partnerships

Buchanan is based in Miami, Florida, and she is also strategically focusing on emerging markets beyond the state.

She said, “My goal is to forge relationships with industry leaders in key sectors and regions. By engaging with employers in these areas, I aim to create diverse and dynamic co-op opportunities that align with our students’ academic and professional goals. I love to collaborate, so if you have an idea, market, employer, or opportunity worth exploring, let me know and I will look into it. Let’s go!”

Faculty Spotlight: Nneka Allen-Harrison, Assistant Adjunct Professor at Mills College

by Natalie Bowers

Assistant Adjunct Professor for CPS at Mills College, Nneka Allen-Harrison, has conducted a new study titled “Bay Area Black Voices: Employment Outcomes of the Black Labor Force in the San Francisco Bay Area.” Her research synthesizes employment data to explore economic disparities in the region. Despite its robust economy and diverse population, the Bay Area faces a significant racial wage gap. Drawing on U.S. Census data, Allen-Harrison highlights that in 2019, Black men in the Bay Area earned a median income of less than $60,000, whereas their white counterparts earned over $80,000 annually. For further insights, refer to her work in the NGN article.

“The disparities in employment and economic outcomes for the Black labor force in the Bay Area underscore the urgent need for solutions that promote social empowerment and create a more equitable society.”

– Nneka Allen-Harrison

2024 Women Who Empower Awards

by Natalie Bowers

The Women Who Empower Innovator Awards, now in its fourth year, have provided more than $1.32 million in funding to over 100 changemakers in the Northeastern community. The 2024 recipients were selected by a panel of judges and 33 winners will receive a total of $500,000 in funding.  Four of the 33 winners are affiliated with CPS. Congratulations to all of the winners across Northeastern University!

Northeastern University’s Women Who Empower initiative is grounded in the belief that diverse and inclusive communities empower a better world. The network comprises strong, aspiring, and distinguished individuals dedicated to fostering positive environments, building lasting connections, and providing meaningful experiences where all people thrive, through entrepreneurship.

Making CPS Proud! CPS Affiliated 2024 Winners

This year’s CPS Affiliated winners are:

Mary DeVega, CPS’22, NUSL’25

GRADUATE STUDENTS 1st Place

San Francisco, CA | MPowered: A staffing firm dedicated to empowering women through training and professional development

Linh Dinh, CPS’25

GRADUATE STUDENTS Honors

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam | ATURE: Bridging the gap between Asian SMEs and global markets

Rama Doddi, CPS’24 

GRADUATE STUDENTS Honors

Boston, MA & Vizag, AP, India | RegPulse: Identifying the Regulatory “Pulse” of small to mid-lev Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices and Biologic industries and provide solutions for their regulatory concerns

Claudia Tobar, CPS, D.Ed’20

GRADUATE ALUMNAE 2nd Place and

POWERING GLOBAL CHANGE AWARD 3rd Place

Pichincha, Ecuador | Kamina: A revolutionary financial wellbeing platform, that provides a comprehensive solution with advisory, access and assessment, committed specifically for women and non-banked individuals

Learn more about Women Who Empower.

Read the NGN’s coverage.

Rachel Toncelli Selected by U.S. Department of State for Prestigious English Language Specialist Project

by Natalie Bowers

The U.S. Department of State announced the selection of Rachel Toncelli , CPS Lecturer for NU Immerse and Global Pathways, for a 2-week English Language Specialist project focusing on teaching academic writing in the age of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) in Russia at a national conference focused on teaching writing. Toncelli is part of a select group, as her project is one of approximately 240
that the English Language Specialist Program supports each year.

Toncelli is a lecturer at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies most recently, her scholarly interest has centered around exploring how English language educators develop critical AI literacy. This past March, Toncelli and CPS colleague and Ilka Kostka were awarded the Ron Chang Lee Award from TESOL International Association. Named in honor of one of the pioneers in the implementation of technology in English Language Teaching (ELT), Kostka and Toncelli’s work was recognized for its pedagogical innovation.

The English Language Specialist Program is the premier opportunity for leaders in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) to enact meaningful and sustainable changes in the way that English is taught abroad. Through projects developed by U.S. Embassies in more than 80 countries, English Language Specialists work directly with local teacher trainers, educational leaders, and ministry of education officials to exchange knowledge, build capacity, and establish partnerships benefiting participants, institutions, and communities in the United States and overseas.

English Language Specialists are counted among the more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Specialist Program is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University.

For further information about the English Language Specialist Program or the U.S. Department of State, please visit elprograms.org/specialist, or e-mail [email protected].

Staff Spotlight: Pete Cardillo, Associate Director of Employer Engagement

by Natalie Bowers

Last year marked an exciting milestone with the launch of CPS’s Employer Engagement Team, dedicated to creating dynamic experiential learning co-op opportunities for students. Pete Cardillo helps forge and sustain vital relationships with companies eager to benefit from the fresh perspectives and skills our students offer. His goal? To showcase CPS’s eagerness to collaborate and highlight how our students’ exceptional talents can significantly bolster industry teams—a true win-win scenario!

“Our CPS alumni form an essential support network for our students, enhancing their experiential learning and co-op journeys. With a dedicated team now in place, we aim to encourage our alumni, especially those needing skilled student workers, to reach out and discover the impactful contributions our students can offer.”

-Pete Cardillo

Cardillo is continually connecting with various industry partners and engaging both long-time collaborators and new employer prospects. He shares, “Our CPS alumni form an essential support network for our students, enhancing their experiential learning and co-op journeys. With a dedicated team now in place, we aim to encourage our alumni, especially those needing skilled student workers, to reach out and learn more. Unlike typical interns, our students often arrive with substantial experience, ready to make a remarkable difference from day one. While we value partnerships with companies of all sizes, we particularly treasure the unique experiences provided by medium and small-sized businesses. So, whether you run a family-owned enterprise or a large corporation, we’re eager to connect with you!”

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to partner with us. Learn more here or just reach out to Pete and his team today at [email protected].

Please note: while the Employer Engagement Team and the broader CPS team strive to connect students with valuable experiences, they do not function as a staffing or placement agency for students or employers.

The Spirit of Giving: From Co-op Student to Donor 

Alumni Spotlight: Jim Nolan, BA Business & Administration ‘71

by Natalie Bowers

Few understand the value of co-op education quite like Jim Nolan.  

As a graduate of the College of Professional Studies, BA Business & Administration ‘71, and lifetime career in commercial real estate, Nolan encourages everyone to embrace the practice of philanthropy. His guiding principle is simple yet profound, “engage in giving back in any capacity possible, no matter how small, because every act contributes to a greater good.”   

Nolan’s formative years were influenced by his parents’ strong family values and his father’s military career, which involved multiple relocations around the globe and exposed him to many different cultures. He graduated high school at a small school in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, which was mostly populated by expat students, children of employees of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Embassy and Joint American Military Mission to Aid Turkey (JAMMAT).  

He said, “Coming from the military mindset, I never understood the world of business; I didn’t know there was such a thing as business, and I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was. There is no ‘profit motive’ in the military, there are just missions and objectives. You do whatever it is that needs to be done that day.”  

When it was time to submit college applications, Nolan aspired to pursue a career in teaching, influenced by the positive impact of his high school English teacher, Mrs. Vick. His mother’s best friend in Ankara was the daughter of Herb Gallagher, the Athletic Director at Northeastern University at the time. Both she and her husband were Northeastern graduates and their experience with the university inspired Nolan to apply to the School of Education. Despite never having set foot in Boston before, he was accepted.  

His first visit to Boston coincided with the start of his first semester as an English major in the Northeastern University College of Education. He said, “I boarded a plane from Turkey, arrived at JFK airport with only $50 in my pocket, purchased a bus ticket, and got off at Copley Square.” He then settled into the dorms located at 129 Hemingway Street, Boston. Upon his arrival, he was greeted with two military footlockers containing everything he owned.  

His parents agreed to pay for tuition and board, but Nolan had to earn money for everything else. During his freshman year, he secured a few small jobs, washing dishes at the girl’s dormitory and with Northeastern’s building and grounds when needed. By combining earnings from these jobs, he was able to cover most of his college expenses, graduating with a loan of just $1,200, roughly equivalent to $25,000 in today’s dollars. 

The Co-op Experience 

In his first year at Northeastern, Nolan met with his co-op coordinator to arrange a work experience. The challenge for the coordinator was that the job had to be related to education and provide room and board. Jim was open to opportunities, and the coordinator recommended he look at occupational therapist roles offered at Fairfields Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Newtown, Connecticut.  

“It was a beautiful campus, no gates, every building was a colonial five story building,” Nolan said, remembering his time there. He recalls arriving at the hospital, heading to the administrative building to get the room key, and settling into an 18×12 wide room with a sink and bathroom down the hall. “I unpacked feeling a little strange and went downstairs to the basement rec room. I saw other people there, they were acting a little rambunctious, and I said, ‘holy moly they put me in with the patients.’ But they were the orderlies!”  

Nolan’s next experiential work opportunity was with the Aetna Life and Casualty Company in Richmond, Virginia. Again, Nolan met with his coordinator and focused his job search on Virginia, as his parents were relocating from Turkey to live there. While with Aetna Life, he received free room and board, as well as laundry service. After two co-op periods with the company, Nolan realized his interest in business and finance and transitioned out of the College of Education to University College, now known as the College of Professional Studies. He switched his major to Business Administration and Management and added two additional years at Northeastern to complete his degree.  

“Giving is a joyful experience. If you are at Northeastern, you have got to be immersed in the programs that are offered and take every advantage that is thrown at you. Then give back.” 

Jim Nolan

While he caught up with his new major, Nolan held other positions with the Employers Commercial Union, the Security Insurance Company, the US Post office and Bradley’s Stop and Shop. As he moved closer to graduation, he again called on the assistance of his co-op coordinator for advice and job recommendations. He was recommended to take the Civil Service Examination and apply with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).  

He spent the next seven years in a variety of positions and responsibilities with the FDIC, the last two years serving as the Assistant Liquidator of American Bank and Trust company in New York. Finally, Nolan decided it might be time to go out on his own. 

Going Out On His Own. 

After his tenure with the FDIC, Nolan spent the next three years as the Head of Real Estate Acquisitions for a Miami-based company, First Capital. He then had a brief stint as President of MDC Equities in Denver, Colorado. It was in Denver that Nolan met his future partner, and together they co-founded United Trust Fund (UTF), a privately owned real estate investment firm headquartered in Miami. His partner had a connection with a large state retirement fund to provide capital for property purchases, while Nolan’s role was to purchase, manage, and sell the investments. His partner famously said, “You buy the properties, and I will find the capital,” and that is exactly what they did for the next six years, building the name and brand of United Trust Fund (UTF).  

Starting essentially from scratch in 1982, Nolan and his partner grew the company to institutional status. To enhance the company’s capital structure, he hired an investment banker in New York. Deloitte and Touche were engaged to conduct a three-year back audit, and an investment offering was prepared. Nolan remarked, “I learned all of this through my Northeastern co-op experience and my time with the FDIC.” A list of 100 institutional prospects was made, and within one-year, Metropolitan Life closed on a 20% interest in UTF.  

Nolan successfully built his business while raising his three young children and volunteering his time as a Northeastern alum, attending local college fairs, and actively engaging in numerous nonprofit organizations. 

Philanthropy 

Nolan’s own family’s value of giving, coupled with his award of the Joseph Mullin Scholarship in his last year at Northeastern, gave him a strong sense of the importance of giving back.

Before he was able to give money, Nolan volunteered his time. He represented the university in the local college admission process, attended college fairs, and met with prospective students to promote Northeastern and its co-op program. He continued in that role for ten years, covering Florida and other parts of the southeastern part of the country.  

Eventually, he established the Nolan Family Scholarship for students with learning challenges, starting with a donation of $25,000 and aiming to increase it to $100,000. He has not only achieved this goal but has been able to contribute even more to the fund. 

At a dinner in Miami, Richard Freeland, then-president of Northeastern, solicited Nolan to serve on the University’s Board of Incorporators which he served on for more than ten years, actively engaged in the Admission Committee, the Student Affairs Committee, the Building Committee and finally, serving five years on the University’s Financial Affairs Committee.  

His breadth of involvement reflects Nolan’s dedication to making a meaningful impact on service and leadership. “When I had time, I gave time; and when I had money, I gave money.”, he said.

“Northeastern co-op provided experience and work ethic for my future and that fueled my desire to give back”

-Jim Nolan

The Power of Experiential Learning

Real world experience. Real life impact.

Experiential learning is a cornerstone of the Northeastern student journey. At the College of Professional Studies, students engage in a variety of opportunities to gain meaningful hands-on experience working with businesses and organizations with real world challenges that need solving. At the same time, businesses and non-profit organizations gain access to fresh ideas with a structured, faculty-led team.

Whether through co-op, the Experiential Network (XN), or a variety of capstone and other experiential learning programs, rigorous academics at CPS are augmented by real world experience that builds strong work portfolios and seeds the growth of a meaningful network.

At graduation, students receive more than a degree. They leave CPS with tangible high-demand experience. And the businesses and other organizations that take part in the experiential learning programs that afford them that experience keep coming back because of the value they receive.

Student Success

When Lauren Li began thinking about going back to school to get her master’s degree she was at a crossroads in her career. A graduate from John Day Obrien School of Mathematics and Science in the Boston Public School system, she grew up in an environment that didn’t always place high value in the arts. Art and music programs were continually being cut, and while she excelled in chemistry and other STEM classes, she yearned for a creative outlet that had been lacking. That yearning led her to a bachelor’s degree in Theatre.

“After graduation, I was unclear about where I wanted to focus my career, I started trying different things, but nothing felt right. It took me a while to decide to go back to school to get my master’s degree.”

Lauren Li

She began looking into UX design, a mix of both her creative yearning and her STEM strengths and found CPS’s graduate program in Digital Media. Starting during the pandemic in the fall of 2020, Li left her job and focused all her energy on this new journey. It was during that time, that she was introduced to different internship and co-op opportunities. Ultimately, she landed a capstone project working on a website design with Green Our Planet, a Las Vegas-based non-profit that trains teachers to use school gardens and hydroponic laboratories to teach students STEM, conservation, nutrition and entrepreneurship in a hands-on engaging way. to

“Before I met Ciara Byrne, the owner, I was intimidated,” she said. “You never know what business owners are going to be like, but she made it easy to dive into the project.”

– Lauren Li

Over the course of her time with Green Our Planet, Li was able to work directly with the staff on marketing and user research. Because their program is catered toward teachers, Li took the initiative to reach out to her own network of teacher friends to better understand how to serve that population and took that combined insight back to the design project where the team adapted many of the recommendations she delivered to develop a new website.

Li graduated with her master’s in digital media and a concentration in interactive design in 2022 and now is leading a successful career as a UX designer at Aspen Tech, a global asset management software leader that helps businesses advance their industrial digital transformation.

When asked what she gained most in her capstone experience at Green Our Planet she said,

“When it comes to UX in general, empathy is so important for a designer to understand the users you are serving. I bring that to every project I work on now.”

– Lauren Li

She went on to explain that “going to Northeastern was life changing for me. I was almost 30 when I went back so it felt very different from my undergraduate experience being an older student, but in a good way. It’s never too late.”

The Business Impact

As students pursue their dreams, gaining real world experience, businesses tap into the experiential learning program for two main reasons: one, they like the idea of helping students; and two, they often gain far more from the creative, fresh thinking that comes from new student perspectives.

Rahi Tajzadeh, CEO of The Big Leaf, a Canadian consultancy firm, started working with students at different universities four years ago because “we realized we needed access to student brains.”

Since then, Tajzadeh and his team have worked with more than 2,200 students at 94 schools.

“The two students we worked with at Northeastern over the six weeks we had them were some of the best we’ve ever had,” he added. “They did more and at a higher quality than any student in their category of front-end development. More even that students we’ve had over two semesters. I was blown away.”

Rahi Tajzadeh CEO of The Big Leaf

Because he’s worked with so many students at different universities, Tajzadeh has learned a thing or two about how businesses can best position their experiential learning programs to be successful.

“It’s important to find projects that are not mission critical and have lots of room for creativity. You can always change something, but if it’s too restrictive you’ll never know what it could have been.”

– Rahi Tajzadeh

At the same time, Tajzadeh says businesses should still recognize they are working with students who are still learning so need to set expectations accordingly and give students the freedom to fail.

“It’s better for them to learn from businesses in this setting than when they get their first job after graduation and have never had the experience of professional critical feedback, it’s a great way to learn and it’s also a great way for us to get exciting ideas that we may have never thought about on our own.”

– Rahi Tajzadeh

Intangible Benefits

In addition to the practical benefits experiential learning brings students to put their academic studies to the test in the real world and develop meaningful resume-building experience and for businesses to cultivate fresh ideas, there are some less obvious but equally important benefits to experiential learning.

Minhyung (James) Jung and Suqi (Eileen) Wu worked together on a project with Althea Health, a start-up aimed at deploying AI technology in the health care space to help boost efficiency and enhance patient access and outcomes.

Jung describes himself as a marketer and musician who has a diverse background in international studies, economics, science, business, marketing, branding, music, and sports. He decided to pursue the Digital Media Management program because it allowed him to tap into that diverse experience.

“At the beginning of my studies, I didn’t know that we would have a choice between a thesis or a capstone project at the end. I ended up picking the capstone project just because it was something different. I didn’t realize how much I would love it. Looking back, I’m so appreciative of the opportunity.”

Minhyung (James) Jung

For Jung, working with an actual business was completely new for him. Though he has a lot of academic and lived experiences, his professional work experience was limited and to participate in the process of completing a project for a business from start to finish, working as a team under the leadership of their professor, Alexandra (Alex) Candelas, accelerated his learning.

“My most crucial take away was actually what I learned about communication, it was quite a new thing for me, to communicate in the real business. This experience gave me that.”

– Minhyung (James) Jung

Wu, his counterpart on the team working with Althea Health, came to Northeastern because of its focus on experiential learning.

“I wanted a real-life experience because the best way to learn is to do, but I think the most valuable aspect was also having access to our professor to get direct and actionable feedback, to go deeper in our analysis and explore new ideas with more confidence than I may have done on my own.”

– Suqi (Eileen) Wu

According to Candelas, who in addition to teaching digital media at Northeastern is a tech executive who recently left corporate and is a co-founder at First Leap Labs a non-profit incubator for startups, the magic of experiential learning is when students find that confidence to trust in what they have learned.

“I love watching students grow in this program and when faced with real problems that businesses in the real world are depending upon them to help solve, they inevitably surprise themselves with just how capable they truly are.”

Prof. Alexandra Candelas

Jung and Wu not only surprised themselves with how much they got out of the project with Althea Health, but they also surprised the client as well.

Kamyar Firouzi, co-founder of Althea Health, admits that he was not excited about inviting students into their development process at first. A graduate of Stanford, his business partner is a Northeastern alum who connected them to CPS’s experiential learning program through partners at the Roux Institute.

“I was skeptical at first but ultimately was really impressed by what we got out of this experience, the work they did saved us a ton of time, which is at a premium as we prepare to raise our seed round of funding.”

– Kamyar Firouzi

As a SaaS software startup trying to integrate AI into the health care space, the potential for Althea Health is more than just business for Firouzi.

“I’ve been through some treatments that are complex and have wanted more clarity across the journey. Too many healthcare systems can’t coordinate care, so you have to go to too many places. Imagine a world where everyone has access to skilled nurses, navigators, and caretakers to help them through their treatment?”

Kamyar Firouzi Co-Founder of Althea Health

When asked if he would do another project like this with students again, given his hesitation at first, Firouzi enthusiastically said “absolutely.”

“Even though I wasn’t so big on it at first, now I want to go back. Big kudos to the instructors who bring energy and passion and are able to facilitate and engage students while giving them direction. Honestly, we need to get the word out to help others know about this program so it can be a role model for other institutions that are trying to train students for the future. You look at “big name schools,” like Harvard and even my alma mater, Stanford, and they just don’t offer this level of mutually beneficial experiential learning like what we had at Northeastern. Most of the work is academic, but no one really cares about that in the real world.”

– Kamyar Firouzi

Getting Connected

The success of the experiential program at Northeastern is centered on the relationships of the faculty, many of whom, like Candelas, are still active leaders in their industries. Those partnerships and networks expand across the globe, but that’s not to say businesses must already have a relationship with Northeastern to get involved. Those interested in learning more should contact Yvonne Rogers, Assistant Dean, Center of Co-op & Professional Advancement, College of Professional Studies.

“Our students are incredibly diverse, coming from all parts of the world, all seasons of their careers, and all kinds of lived experiences, their education at CPS is enriched when we can deepen the diversity of the kinds of businesses and organizations that partner with us in this experiential learning work, just as the businesses gain value from the diversity of thinking that our students bring to the table.”

– Prof. Alexandra Candelas

A Resume of Advocacy

Student Spotlight:  Jeremy Thompson, Bachelor’s of Finance and Account Management (‘25)

by Natalie Bowers

Jeremy Thompson is currently enrolled at CPS as a BS Finance and Account Management major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship (‘25). In addition to studying to complete his bachelor’s degree, Thompson is also working towards qualification to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.  

Professors and mentors slate him as a precocious student. According to Mary Ankomah, Foundation Year Program Coordinator and one of Thompson’s biggest fans, Thompson is ‘an exceptional student and young man with a very bright future’.  

Thompson is currently considering a healthy list of next-step opportunities, which include employment at Ernst & Young, LLP in their tax practice (he’s had two internships with them already) and submitting graduate applications to both law school and Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

“My plate is full of options right now; I realize I’m in a privileged position, especially considering where I came from. Expectations for kids like me weren’t exactly high,” he said. 

Born and raised in Dorchester, Thompson attended English High School in Jamaica Plain, one of Boston’s oldest public schools. He started his freshman year in 2014, just as the school came under scrutiny from the Department of Secondary Education (DESE). A significant increase in MCAS Math scores, credited to a talented new school administration and math teacher, sparked accusations of cheating. The MCAS results in question showed a remarkable improvement from the previous year, with 10% of students ranked as advanced, up from zero in 2014, and 74% ranked as proficient, up from 51% the prior year. Following an investigation, the school was cleared of wrongdoing. However, skepticism’s lingering impact weighed on Jeremy and his classmates. 

“At a time when we thought the school would be celebrating our accomplishments, they scrutinized us. That wasn’t a good feeling,” he said.  

A year later, a high school dean, leading a double life, was linked to local gangs. He was caught recruiting a student to sell marijuana in the school and ultimately arrested for shooting the student over an apparent downturn in drug sales.  

In navigating the aftermath of these events, Thompson found respite in community, and he focused on his academics. He committed his time to English High’s Boston Debate Team and the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA).  

Foundation Year 

During his junior year in high school, Thompson’s high school advisor introduced him to Northeastern University’s Foundation Year, one of a variety of pathway programs offered by the College of Professional Studies (CPS). Foundation Year serves students in Boston transitioning from high school to college and offers rigorous academic coursework within a supportive cohort environment during their first year of college. 

Meeting progression standards and completion of the Foundation Year program enables students to progress into a degree at Northeastern University. The program’s design aims to maximize student potential, offering small classes and individualized advising, fostering a strong sense of community, supplemented by provisions for textbooks, technology access, and a dining plan providing meals on campus. The program boasts a 92% average matriculation rate for students who successfully complete the program and meet progression standards to continue at Northeastern. Many of these students successfully graduate with a bachelor’s degree. 

Looking back at his high school experience, Thompson said he wasn’t really coached to strive for graduate-level academic horizons. He said, “The general expectation among the students and teachers was for us to get an associate’s degree, at max. The hope was for us to graduate and get into a community college with no real focus beyond that. Foundation Year gave me a heavy push to develop certain habits and to focus on something much more. Foundation Year helped me stay more consistent in reaching for my goals.”  

Thompson recalls that his relationships with faculty members, including Foundation Year Program Director, Martha Loftus, made a huge impact on him, helping him develop his strengths and identify his passions.  

“Through Foundation Year, I learned to see how the world works, I learned about big picture systems that shape our economy. With my own focus on and in community, this was interesting.”  

Since starting to pursue his undergraduate degree, Thompson’s resume of advocacy work has grown long and reaches every facet of community. He has excelled in developing his passion for serving the community, and due to his many roles as a community activist, he was honored by Northeastern University with its Social Justice Advocacy Award in 2023.  

In 2020, Thompson got involved in community activism after George Floyd’s murder and began to meet other local activists. He worked with city council candidate Jacob Urena’s campaign for District 4 in Boston. Urena then introduced him to The New Democracy Coalition, a Boston-based organization that focuses on promoting civic literacy, policy and electoral justice. He served as a political strategist and helped redesign Boston’s Second Suffolk District’s ‘Go Out To Vote’ campaign. After the redesign, he travelled to other states to champion the voting rights issue.  

Thompson organized a campaign for voting rights with leaders of the civil rights era of the 50s and 60s in DC with an organization called Black Voters Matter. He travelled to the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, an annual gathering and ten-mile walk to commemorate the Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, and the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There, Thompson befriended living history civil rights activist JoAnne Bland, a woman who was present at Bloody Sunday in 1965 at the age of eleven, and also the co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama. 

In 2021, he started his own boutique financial consultancy, called Little Liberty, offering services including personal financial planning and professional development, to combat predatory financial misinformation in the community. He helped organize a community conference at Roxbury Public Library in partnership with Visions Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit that helps to integrate DEI principles into organizations and support individuals to integrate into their communities. Thompson’s efforts with Little Liberty led him to work with many formerly incarcerated people to rebuild their self-worth and learn how to talk about themselves in job interviews. He said, “Many of these folks learned great skills while they did their time, but they didn’t know how to talk about them: there was a lot of self-efficacy building in our programming.” 

 With Little Liberty, Thompson helped draft bylaws for multiple nonprofits in an around Boston’s ‘methadone mile’, otherwise known as Recovery Road, an area in Boston located at the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue. Due to its concentration of neighborhood services providing help, the area has long attracted many people struggling with homelessness and drug addiction. “If you find something you care about deeply, if you can hold that close to you, there is nothing in this world that can stop you. It’s not about managing your time, it’s about identifying what you care about and letting that care guide you.” he said. 

Standing on Shoulders 

Thompson says he draws inspiration from those who are already caring for others. 

Thompson acknowledges taking inspiration from a few family members including his grandfather, who he describes as ‘a powerhouse’, a veteran with a forty-year career with the US Army who saw the Berlin Wall fall. “He told me that when he was in Vietnam, he witnessed soldiers throwing babies in the air and used them as target practice. This just made him realize the cruel reality that some people just don’t value the miracle of life. When he served in Germany in the 50’s after World War II, he describes enjoying a reprieve from the overt American racism that colored his youth. People treated him with extreme kindness, families took him in and cooked for him; it made all the difference. He shared these experiences with me as lessons in valuing kindness and humanity and what centering those values can do for people. To quote my grandfather, ‘We the unfortunate have created so much with so little, that we can create anything out of nothing’”. 

“There are a lot of people who are forced to do community work, and they aren’t getting paid. These are people in the neighborhood who are raising kids who aren’t theirs, people who are addicted and looking out for other people, transpeople taking care of transkids who got kicked out of their own homes, and nobody’s getting paid for it; they’re doing it because they care.” 

Jeremy Thompson

Thompson credits his uncle, Rashad Chandler, who passed away in 2023, as the person who helped shape his character. He said, “He always taught me a lot, about how to be a Black man in Boston, ways to move both in community and out. He was a rapper, big in the 90’s. He was a Dorchester legend.” 

Thompson also praises his aunt, Dorcas Dunham, as a big influence. She received a state award for community work that was presented at her funeral. She was heavily involved in her community, and she advocated for green spaces in neighborhoods.  

Identifying the ‘why’ 

Thompson advises Foundation Year students to take their studies seriously, emphasizing the importance of personal commitment. “Despite ample support available through the program, success ultimately hinges on individual motivation and dedication. Identifying your deeper motivations beyond academics and self-interest is crucial. While the journey may present challenges, recognizing this and embracing the difficulty leads to growth and opportunity., he said. 

Thompson is working to help his community with sustainability, and he ultimately wants to help change state and federal tax laws. “My ‘why’ is to help communities, not just my community. The flow of how we even think about ‘community’, at least in the US, is something that I challenge. The general view in the US is that ‘community’ refers to anyone you share physical proximity to, but ‘community’ to me comes from this idea of closeness, how much you allow others to influence your being, way of life, everything. We call it ‘relationships’; I call it ‘community’. Uplifting that aspect, as opposed to focusing resources on imposing the structure of forced communities like HOAs and forced community spaces, I think it will change how we talk about happiness. Someone else’s happiness would be my happiness; it can change how we talk about feelings; it wouldn’t be just for someone else to win, it would be shared.” 

Upon hearing Thompson describe his vision for a healthy community, Ankomah said, “Imagine if everyone took an active role like Jeremy. Imagine what that community would look like.” 

CPS Alum Recognized by the Equity Consortium for Helping Schools Achieve Equity

Northeastern EdD alum, Dr. Antonio Boyd receives honorable mention in the ACE 2024 Excellence in Equity Awards for Educators. This national award honors companies, leaders, authors, and educators whose tremendous efforts in education are helping schools achieve equity everywhere.

For more than 25 years, Boyd has served as President and CEO of Think Tank Consulting Group – a project development, management, fundraising, public affairs, and community relations company serving education, nonprofits, healthcare, and government sectors.

He is also a lecturer at the Northeastern Graduate School of Education in the College of Professional Studies, teaching doctoral candidates about collaborative leadership and leadership for social justice and serves as a columnist for Getting Smart, a national education media channel that supports innovations in learning, education, and technology.

In addition, Boyd is the founder and national coordinator for The Lion’s Den, a multigenerational monthly national mentoring meeting of African-American Men.