Raising The Game with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, The Under Armour Way

By Tchernavia Rocker

At Under Armour, we have spent years building our focus on diversity and inclusion. As the Chief People and Administrative Officer, my primary goal has been to transform our culture including the way we think about our  work, the way we engage in that work together and to build purpose into all that we do. That means turning our values into action, not just words.


Last month, Under Armour announced a new, long-term commitment to create opportunities for millions of youth to engage in sports by 2030. Today, we’re taking another step, by expanding our partnership as the Official Outfitter of our hometown squad, Morgan State University in Baltimore, one of the nation’s premier historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). It’s not just a working agreement, but a template for how we want to elevate our work with HBCUs across the country in the years ahead to better engage with students to create a pipeline of top talent.


This commitment was born out of the passion and voices of our teammates that are HBCU graduates. We wanted to use our role or influence inside UA to create visibility and lasting impact. I, for one, am living proof that HBCUs have the resources and power to transform their students’ lives. As a first generation college student my entire family pooled their resources, prayers and encouragement to make sure my dreams of higher education were realized.  


Like any college student, I was fearful about the unknown. I could have attended any number of D1 schools, but I wanted to go somewhere I could be nurtured, seen and heard. That’s why I chose Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, a HBCU in Normal (Huntsville), Alabama, where Service Is Sovereignty. When I set foot on that yard, everybody there was focused on making sure that I grew as an individual and as part of the collective. I wasn’t one person in a sea of many or just a student ID number – I was a whole person endowed with talent, promise, unlimited potential and responsibility.  My HBCU education shaped my ability to think critically, created a strong sense of identity, cultivated an ever-expanding world-view and instilled a commitment to a culture of excellence. My HBCU experience helped me shake any inkling of self-doubt and along with my family, set me on the path to achieve and do great things. I am AAMU and HBCU proud.


For HBCU students today, being seen, heard and celebrated is just as important now as it was then. HBCUs play an essential role in building Black professionals of the future – producing about 20 percent of all Black graduates annually, and enrolling 10 percent of Black students in higher education, even though they represent just 3 percent of institutions.


It’s clear that supporting HBCUs is extremely important and beneficial for the students, but there are wider economic and business opportunities that come with creating strong networks of HBCUs. According to research by McKinsey, a strong HBCU network could increase incomes of Black workers by around $10 billion, in addition to strengthening the economy with $1.2 billion in incremental business profit. Not only does supporting HBCUs make business sense, most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.


Our expanded partnership with Morgan State will unfold across three key areas:


  • In the classroom: UA will launch a Career Combine for 50 freshmen, sophomores or juniors at MSU where they will learn from top UA talent in fashion, design, retail and business. Students will compete in the Combine case study competition for a chance to win one of five $10,000 scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year. The Career Combine will kick off in March 2022.
  • On the field: Excellent student athletes need excellent coaches. Under Armour will provide coaches at MSU access to the UA Coaches Armoury, an exclusive virtual space to equip them with the tools they need to develop athletes using well-tested methods to drive the best human performance. 
  • On the job: UA will also reserve at least two internships this summer as part of the UA Rookie program for MSU students. We are also committed to this effort beyond the MSU internships, where HBCU students will represent over 15% of our Rookie class for Summer 2022. These students will also be given additional mentoring by UA teammates. 

This partnership will be the template we use to unlock opportunities for even more partnerships HBCUs across the United States, to support students and their ambitions on and off the field. It’s a reflection of one of our core values at Under Armour, ‘Stand for Equality,’ and it’s driven by not just the HBCU grads at Under Armour, but our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion across our workforce. We seek partnerships with schools and athletes who share not just those values, but strive to put them to work.


"Under Armour is a valued partner whose support of the City of Baltimore and commitment to diversity and inclusion aligns with the values and mission we embrace at Morgan. We look forward to expanding our relationship with Under Armour and creating new opportunities that will elevate performance and achievement on the field, in the classroom and professionally in the workplace."

David K. Wilson, President of Morgan State University

To further celebrate Black History Month, Under Armour has also launched a collection to celebrate Black excellence. The images and videos produced around the collection were made in partnership with students at Morgan State. Proceeds from the collection will support scholarships for HBCU students and institutions in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), the nation’s oldest historically Black athletic conference. You can shop the collection here


We recognize that while diversity and inclusion has become a mainstream topic, it hasn’t always translated into mainstream action. We have met our goals of ensuring that 50 percent of our job candidates came from underrepresented groups, but we know more needs to be done across our workforce, our industry and our country. Our HBCU partnership is important because it is an authentic and concrete program to support future leaders. We’re walking the walk, because the time calls for action, not more talk.


Tchernavia Rocker is Chief People and Administrative Officer at Under Armour


Photography captured by Morgan State University Screenwriting and Animation (SWAN) students

Photography captured by Morgan State University Screenwriting and Animation (SWAN) students