Paul Quinn’s Urban Work College Model Pairs Students with Plano Employers

Paul Quinn President Dr. Sorrell with student Trezuer Butler // photos Roberto Hernandez
Paul Quinn President Dr. Sorrell with student Trezuer Butler // photos Roberto Hernandez

In fall 2018 Dallas’ Paul Quinn College opened its inaugural Urban Work Model program in Plano. The program helps students get access to jobs, housing and assistance with college loans in order to make higher education more affordable for lower-income students. Students at PQC-Plano typically work 10-15 hours per week every semester, giving them what college president Dr. Michael Sorrell called an applied learning experience.

“We’ve created the ability for people to aquire three different forms of education,” Dr. Sorrell said. “Your first type of education at Paul Quinn College is your subject area of expertise, your degree.

“But you’re going to have four years of real-world work experience while you’re getting that degree,” he said, referring to the second type of education offered. And the third type of education is a digital certification program where students can become experts in things like Microsoft Office, cyber security and coding. While this may not necessarily be their ideal career choice, it enhances their resumé and helps raise them out of poverty.

Plano students Esnold Jure, Gabrielle Joyce, Alisa Fowler, Trezuer Butler and Launtrest Readus // photos Roberto Hernandez
Plano students Esnold Jure, Gabrielle Joyce, Alisa Fowler, Trezuer Butler and Launtrest Readus // photos Roberto Hernandez

Since being designated a federally recognized Work College by the U.S Department of Education in 2017, Paul Quinn has been able to reduce tuition and fees by nearly $10,000 and reduce its average student’s overall debt by more than $24,000. A $1 million grant by the nonprofit Strada Education Network last year will help fund the Plano program’s expansion.

Going forward, the Urban Work College Model is able to reduce the cost of higher education by eliminating the traditional college buildings and dormitories at PQC expansion campuses outside of Dallas. Plano students are housed together in an apartment complex at reduced rates. The college expects that students will interact with each other in the apartment, just like kids who live in a dorm. “They function as a community,” said Dr. Sorrell.

To eliminate the cost of a physical campus, students take a combination of online classes and traditional classes. In cases where an on-site instructor is needed, professors meet with students either at the apartment complex or in the boardroom of a corporate sponsor.

PQC-Plano Students Destiny Henderson Lewis and Marco Flores
PQC-Plano Students Destiny Henderson Lewis and Marco Flores

This year, there are more than 60 Paul Quinn College students are living in Plano, up from 32 last year. Paul Quinn’s entire women’s soccer team is now based in Plano where members take classes, practice and participate in the school’s Corporate Work Program.

The Corporate Work Program provides internships and real world work experience to students. Among the Plano corporations participating are NTT Data, Liberty Mutual, Aimbridge Hospitality, Allied Solutions, FedEx, JCPenney and MW Logistics.

On Nov. 12 Paul Quinn College announced that it has partnered with JPMorgan Chase in Plano to give 22 students an opportunity to work at the state’s largest bank, employed across several divisions, including commercial banking, corporate and investment banking, digital banking, mortgage and auto. This means JPMorgan Chase is now the largest employer of PQC-Plano. The internships are part of a broader plan by JPMorgan Chase to hire 4,000 black students over the next five years through the firm’s Advancing Black Pathways program, which is investing to help black people make gains in three key areas: education, careers and wealth.

Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere; Paul Quinn President Dr. Michael J. Sorrell; Thasunda Duckett, CEO, JPMorgan Chase Consumer Banking; Kelem Butts, AT&T Director of Charitable Operations; Sekou Kaalund, Head of Advancing Black Pathways for JPMorgan Chase
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere; Paul Quinn President Dr. Michael J. Sorrell; Thasunda Duckett, CEO, JPMorgan Chase Consumer Banking; Kelem Butts, AT&T Director of Charitable Operations; Sekou Kaalund, Head of Advancing Black Pathways for JPMorgan Chase

“Growing up in Harlem, an internship like this would have been a life changing event,” said Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere. “These Paul Quinn Scholars are from all over the country – New York, Detroit, Oakland, Chicago – and they are going to be employed, build their business network and acquire a first class education right here in Plano. This partnership is going to make an incredible difference in their lives.”

San Francisco native Trezuer Butler is a senior who got an internship at MW Logistics last year. Six months later, she was hired to do dispatching and brokerage work.

“My plan was to always to go to college, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there,” Trezuer said.

As a high schooler in 2015, she was accepted into seven colleges. She ultimately chose Paul Quinn because the people she met seemed the most personable. Now only three credits away from a business management degree, she says the experience has several advantages over a traditional college setting.

Paul Quinn student Trezuer Butler
Paul Quinn student Trezuer Butler

“I feel like my college experience has been a unique one for sure,” she said. “My hope is to open my own business one day. It’s been a real eye-opener getting to work with and learn about big corporations like Walmart, Clorox and General mills.”

According to Dr. Sorrell, the program is working out exceptionally well thanks to the Plano community, corporate partners and the city’s leadership.

“Our students that are going to school in Plano are experiencing an outstanding quality of life,” he said. “Hats off to the mayor. This would not have happened without him, his leadership and his vision. It just says a lot.”

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