Changing The Narrative Of The HBCU Experience

Why is it that when a person, normally black, gets accepted to an Ivy League it goes viral? Why is that when they then graduate from the school they are no longer John or Jane Doe, but “Harvard Grad, Jane Doe”? They wear their school proudly and will always be recognized in association with it, because their alumni and supporters have generated such a positive image in the minds of others, that people will support a school they’ve never even been to. Schools have become so prestigious because of the prominence gained through proud alumni and their philanthropic acts.

HBCUs are known for their rich and expansive histories, culture, and environments, but something that rarely gets covered is the impact HBCU Alumni can and does have on our everyday society. Unfortunately, when people think of a Spike lee, Oprah Winfrey or Chadwick Boseman we showcase their impact, but we don’t create that correlation or associate them with their respective HBCUs. If it is being covered or highlighted it’s normally by that HBCU itself, or by an HBCU awareness platform (Like CampusLATELY).

So how do we generate universal awareness about HBCUs? How do we get positive images portrayed about our campuses? How do we strengthen the correlation and awareness of someone’s success to HBCUs? Most importantly, how can we say HBCUs are great period, without having to engage in competition against PWIs? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Co-Founders Jamian Lattin -Sims and John Nicklos are doing just that. Having, recently created the My Degree Is Black campaign in February 2018 they use the powerful impact of proud alumni success stories to showcase firsthand what is going on at HBCUs and the success they generate. Through events, apparel, video and written testimonies, they  are changing the narrative of the HBCU experience and its impact on the global community. begun to break stigmas about inclusion and controversies held about HBCUs.


Meeting through NSBE while Jamian was studying mechanical engineering at Prairie View A&M Univerisity  and John was an engineering student at Forest Brook High School, they created  the foundation that would then foster the business they have today. Both men proudly align their success with their time spent at Prairie View and proudly support HBCUs.  Although, John Nicklos left Prairie View in 2007, he still put his electrical engineering studies to use as he urgently began working on projects with Boeing. There he had the chance to liquefy natural gas and send two satellites into space. He later returned to school at University of Houston and obtained a degree in entrepreneurship and marketing. He is now what I like to call a “serial -entrepreneur” and is a business development guru. Focusing mainly on work pertained to management and organizational leadership, he has generated over a hundred million dollars for companies and clients. He also helped create and develop four companies within the last year and plans to develop four more this year, three of  which are his own.

Jamian graduated from Prairie View in 2004 with a Degree in Mechanical engineering.  He went on to work for NASA for 15 years where he contributed as a Project Manager and Safety Manager to the Human Health and Performance Directorate and the Office of Education.  Recently leaving to put his focus on building YOUR HBCU, an online marketplace, due to launch in August 2018 that will be the Amazon of HBCU apparel. In 2005 he began his own business, HBCU Marketplace, with a few like-minded individuals selling HBCU apparel. As him and his partners  began to focus on other things in life they decided to end the business and dissolve their partnership, but even as business died down he realized that his customer base was still prominent. This is when he linked up with John and created the platform for My Degree is Black. While Jamian oversees the day to day operations, John handles they management side and through their connection they have become a dynamic duo.  


By creatively using alumni testimonies and  apparel as the driving piece for the campaign they have begun to “initiate necessary conversations around the impact HBCUs have” and lay the foundation for their main focus; changing the narrative of the HBCU experience. Through their events they expose the culture and atmosphere of an HBCU to not only alumni, but the general public as well. In the future they plan to receive alumni stories from every HBCU, host panels, attend college fairs and continue to enhance the appreciation of HBCU education, bring positive awareness about HBCUs, and generate of correlation between HBCUs and success.  

As alumni, supporters, and products of HBCUs John and Jamian always remind us to be proud of where we come from, GIVE BACK, and keep family business, family business. They encourage us to share our stories on their website at Apparel can also be purchased through their website and you can stay connected with them on social media @mydegreeisblack


Rachel Williams48 Posts

Rachel is a 21 year old Management Major at Prairie View A&M University and aspires to one day own her own event planning company. Rachel has a passion for community involvement and uses blogging as an outlet to voice her opinions and inform the public about topics pertaining to religion, relationships, health, beauty, fitness, music, and other "trending topics" from an open and relatable perspective. She just recently started her own website called "Don't Forget The A", a blog and a brand that encourages individuality, confidence and healthy living as well as focusing on the importance of living to make a difference through giving back and leaving a legacy. She plans to earn her Masters in Public Administration to help her advance her career in community engagement and event planning.


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