Mailchimp
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Mailchimp, an Atlanta-based email and digital marketing platform recently acquired by Intuit, is reported to give Clayton State University one million dollars to fund an educational program that will allow students to receive indispensable hands-on tech training.

This funding simultaneously reinforces the Mailchimp Launchpad Academy, a program in Clayton’s Information and Mathematical Sciences center that assists students and faculty in social, technical, and business ethics expected in the 21st-century workforce. 

Launchpad started when Lain Shakespeare, a Senior Director at Mailchimp, met Clayton University’s, now former, Dean of Computer Science, Jay Terry, in late 2017. The Atlanta Regional Commission had sponsored an event in which bright minds would create partnerships leading to shining new programs. Shakespeare and Terry did just that.

Jillian Morgan oversees Launchpad at Clayton State, and she says that the process started casually, with Mailchimp staff visiting classes. However, things started to take a fantastic turn by the second year.

Clayton Students started working at Mailchimp’s Ponce City Market office to learn from Mailchimp employees themselves––the turnout and interest were enormous.

Morgan was delighted—saying the students “learn everything” from the Mailchimp employees and mused that while Clayton could teach them the material, there truly is no other experience quite like learning directly from someone who does this for a living every single day. 

Since Mailchimp can easily be considered a solid leader in small business marketing, the courses will reinforce security, data infrastructure, software, quality assurance, cloud computing, and more, all taught by a specialized team of Mailchimp’s best.

Only eight students per academic year will be eligible to participate in Launchpad, making the program as lucrative as it is exclusive—Clayton State received over $300,000 from Mailchimp to ensure Launchpad’s future success in 2018.

Mailchimp has certainly swooped in to assist south metro Atlanta as well. The area with little infrastructure has been struggling recently, but Mailchimp’s funding may be exactly what the community needs to support gifted southside students.

Sheldon Cummings, Mailchimp’s COO and former chief officer of diversity at Intuit, states that he couldn’t be happier with the exchange—since Intuit acquired Mailchimp, it has allowed the email marketing company to triple its donations. The company can now focus on its passion: supporting southside Atlanta tech students and giving them access to a unique learning experience. 

Cummings also stresses that Mailchimp’s purpose and passion have always been geared towards helping the “underdogs” in the small business tech world.

Clayton State President Kerry Heyward emphatically agrees, noting that Launchpad has become a critical source for Georgia’s other colleges and universities, and providing these opportunities can change students’ paths for the better—in both their work and their daily life.

But what do the students have to say?

Michelle Melton, a recent graduate of the Launchpad program, has landed a job directly with Mailchimp and has since found the perfect occupation to satisfy her passion for technology and artificial intelligence.

She’s a metro Atlanta native who moved back home from Los Angeles to be closer to her family. She worked for Paramount Pictures and NBC Universal‘s corporate finance sectors during this time, putting her tech passions in the backseat. However, that all changed in 2018 when Melton took a risk that paid off and pursued her passion for tech at Clayton State’s Launchpad program.

Launchpad turned out to be the perfect space for students like Melton—she got to work directly with Mailchimp and applied her class lectures and notes to real-world scenarios, a facet of education that is highly sought-after.

And Melton isn’t alone—nine other Launchpad students found their futures with Mailchimp or have since interned at the marketing giant. Other Launchpad graduates? They’re working high-tech jobs at Home Depot, Uber, Greenlight, ADP, General Motors, Warner Robins Air Logistics, VMWare, Norfolk Southern, Inspire Brands, and many other prestigious businesses.

Ashley Mains is another gifted individual with a passion for tech. Growing tired of her job-hunting experience at Clayton State, the Tennessee native was sure that hiring managers dismissed her efforts as soon as they had heard she hadn’t gone to a specialty tech school.

However, all that changed when Mains participated in Launchpad, saying the difference was “like night and day,” and she gained a deeper understanding of automated tasks in software development, life cycles, and more such as data statistics, software security, and development. The curriculum is truly unmatched, as Mains landed an internship for Mailchimp swiftly after graduation.

What happened afterward was even more lucrative––Mains’ internship at Mailchimp was turned into a full-time job as a test engineer. She says the experience has been nothing short of “life-changing” and can open doors for students just like her.

In order to successfully graduate from Launchpad, students are to finish and publicly present a project of their choosing that is based on real-life business scenarios experienced by Mailchimp staff.

With Clayton State’s community often overlooked in the past, this has been a whirlwind (and welcome) change. With a diverse student base consisting of primarily Black students, 21% of Clayton’s graduates are the first bachelor’s degrees in their household. This has life-changing potential for families and those who live in multigenerational homes.

Chase Moore, Clayton’s Vice President for Advancement and External Affairs, praises Launchpad, saying Mailchimp has helped Clayton University reach both the students and the community as a whole, and their enthusiasm for Launchpad’s future hasn’t died down.


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