Darla Moore School of Business, Dominion Energy offering pipeline program for Midlands students

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 7:38 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 1, 2021 at 7:50 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Starting early next month, over a hundred high school students from Richland School Districts One and Two will have the opportunity to get a head start on a potential career in business professions.

This comes through a new pipeline program called the Dominion Energy Power Forward. The program is led by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business in partnership with Dominion Energy South Carolina.

Dr. Deborah Hazzard, Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at Darla Moore School of Business, spearheaded the program, which holds special meaning for her.

“This is something that really hits home for me, having come from these local school districts,” she said. “And I started out my academic career in Richland Two, but I am a graduate of Lower Richland High School in Richland One.”

The program has been in development for at least a year and officially began with a launch event on September 15. It grew from a desire for the Moore School to provide more opportunities for in-state students, particularly those from underrepresented communities.

“This program is very intentional about creating spaces in which underrepresented populations feel visible and valued and included,” she said.

Students from all Richland One and Richland Two high schools were eligible to take part in the program.

Participating students from Richland One were identified for Power Forward based on enrollment in business management and administration courses. They had also expressed an interest in pursuing careers in business.

At the end of last spring, Richland Two sent out information to high school students to gauge their interest in the program.

Students will have the opportunity to engage in activities and utilize resources as early as their freshmen year. These include a range of opportunities, including career mentorship from Moore School professors, career outlook workshops, job shadowing, field studies, and keynote speakers.

There will also be opportunities for site visits to Dominion Energy and the Moore School.

“I believe that education is a great equalizer,” Hazzard said. “And so no matter what their background is, no matter what their circumstance, if we can expose them to this world-class business school in a way that feels very personal and accepting to them, it can change lives and it can change trajectories.”

Additional plans include hosting a Dominion Energy Power Forward Diversity and Inclusion Conference that will be open to participating students and other underrepresented high school students across South Carolina.

For Dominion Energy, which contributed $50,000 to the effort, forging this partnership was a no-brainer.

“The university is looking to find ways to bring in more diverse students, particularly students within South Carolina, and Dominion is looking for ways to improve the diversity of our own workforce as well, so it came about as sort of a natural partnership,” Iris Griffin, Vice President of Power Generation for Dominion Energy South Carolina said.

Griffin graduated from the Moore School, and said Dominion Energy believes it’s important “to be actively engaged in the communities that we serve.”

Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis, also a Richland One graduate, said this venture will be “invaluable” for the learning and futures of those who participate.

“It’s important for us to look for opportunities and partnerships to close opportunity gaps, particularly for marginalized communities or disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said. “Strategic partnerships like Power Forward are one of the keys to ensure we provide opportunities for our students to be the best versions of themselves.”

Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Richland One Superintendent, echoed that sentiment.

“It has been said that talent is equally distributed, but opportunities are not,” he said. “We strive to provide options and opportunities, so any time we can collaborate or bring entities together, that’s a great thing.”

Richland Two confirmed that 77 students from all five district high schools will be partaking in the program starting this fall. Richland One said it will start with 30 students enrolled in the program, but that number will grow in the coming months.

Hazzard said once the program ramps up, they hope to host one or two events per month. The opportunities will begin with virtual engagements and expand to in-person visits depending on COVID-19 community spread.

Program organizers say they plan to expand the program beyond Richland One and Two to additional school districts in the future.

For more information on Power Forward, visit the University of South Carolina’s website.

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