Pay it 1964ward – Union graduates are problem solvers

Union’s Pay it 1964WARD Campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships go directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union donors – alumni, trustees, friends, and others – who support Union and our goals to transform lives and communities. Please join them through Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today.

Below Dr. Charles A. West, Ph.D. 2000, reflects on Union’s unique mission to graduate problem solvers, a skill sorely needed in today’s world. Read more about Dr. West and his career as a catalyst for economic development optimization and his decision to invest in Union students below.

Dr. WestQ. You are paying your degree forward by investing in Union and its students. Why do you choose to invest in Union’s students?
A. My career soared during and after obtaining my Ph.D. from Union. That is one of the reasons I am paying my degree forward. Other reasons include the Union model that offered flexibility so that a working adult with four children could obtain a Ph.D. Not only did my degree enhance my skills but I found myself in a setting that nurtured my skills. I was able to gain experiences I might not have gained elsewhere.

I can’t say enough about the faculty encouraging me to reach heights I didn’t know were possible. I also became close to my classmates and learned so much from them.

Q. What did your degree and your Union experience do for your career?
A. I doubled my consulting fee the day I completed my degree. I am in a very competitive business, the consulting business, and there is no doubt in my mind that having Ph.D. behind my name says to clients I am more qualified. Having the Union stamp and experience put me miles ahead of the competition.

Q. Union is known for its commitment to social justice. Does that aspect of the university influence your decision to invest in Union and its students? If so, how?
A. I saw social justice firsthand at Union. For the most part, absent were gender and racial bias. What impressed me most about Union was the chance to be listened to and to express my opinions freely. I had the chance to hear other viewpoints and I was strengthened because of those viewpoints. I have traveled and worked all over the world and the broad-based education I received from Union prepared me to be successful.

Q. Union’s goal is to transform lives and communities. Can you share how this goal may have impacted you and your career?
A. I work in economic and community development in many of the areas that have been devastated by economic and climatic destruction. My training at Union improved my ability to help these communities. I worked for seven years to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with the Kauffman Foundation and auto suppliers in Detroit after the Great Recession. Today I am working with the DeBruce Foundation expanding pathways to economic growth and opportunity.

Q. What else would you tell prospective donors about why they should give to Union?
A. I would tell prospective donors that investing in Union is an investment in their future by supporting an Institution focused on problem solving . Union develops individuals that are problem solvers. They are committed to improving the quality of life for all. Union graduates bring insight and understanding and a commitment to unorthodox ways so needed in today’s world.

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About Dr. West.

Dr. Charles A. West believes that a more innovative integration of economic development, workforce development and entrepreneurship could profoundly impact individuals and communities across this country. He is ecstatic to be a part of The DeBruce Foundation team that is committed to tackling the same issues that are dear to him.

Dr. West is a catalyst for economic development optimization because of his multifaceted experiences. From the halls of academe, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in accounting; an M.B.A. in finance; and Ph.D. in entrepreneurship. He honed his experiential base in the laboratories of the streets where he managed economic development and workforce development programs. After leaving, Dr. West served as an economic development consultant to federal and state agencies as well as nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Dr. West exposed young minds to entrepreneurship and was challenged to demonstrate the efficacy of his teachings while a college professor. Partially as a result, he spent several years heading a management group that bought, grew and sold franchises. Afterward, Dr. West began the journey of integrating his knowledge and experiences into the most successful training program for entrepreneurs in the country. The program served several thousand individuals and had a sizeable economic impact. Dr. West has authored or co-authored books in each chapter of his life to provide learning experiences for others. These books include 7 Secrets of the Gig Gurus: A Toolkit for the Freelance Gig Economy, LESSONS. (A contemporary African-American novel), How To Understand and Secure a Surety Construction Bond, Tonight You Can Be in Business for Yourself, and Black Enterprise, Inc.: Case Studies of a New Experiment.