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Discover the Unexpected: Howard Students discuss their summer program with Chevrolet

Jacob Bellevue, Robertney Harlan, Brielle Smith and Eshe Ukweli will sharpen their skills with the National Newspaper Publisher Association and Chevrolet’s marking and communication teams

HBCU Classic attended by the Discover the Unexpected Cohort Summer Program in Detroit

In partnership with the National Newspaper Publisher Association (NNPA), Chevrolet is hosting Discover the Unexpected, a 10-week program for marketing and communications students to gain media experience in Detroit.

This year’s 10-student cohort includes four members of the Howard University community. Jacob Bellevue and Robertney Harlan are undergraduate students of the program, while Brielle Smith and Eshe Ukweli are spring 2023 graduates from the Cathy S. Hughes School of Communications.  

“[At Howard] we took courses like Fundamentals of Journalism which directly translate to our work here for the National Newspaper Publisher Association,” says Smith, who majored in public relations. “We’re able to execute digital posts that get viral hits or that are successful because we learned the background of the algorithm and how to make successful posts for a brand digitally.” 

Students will acquire direct journalism experience while working with members of the Chevrolet brand. The initiative’s primary goal is to sharpen each cohort’s media toolkit.  

Bellevue, a junior studying television and film, mentions that the strong performance from Howard representatives showcases the University’s ability to prepare students, even in the changing culture of media. “I think my experience thus far has shown me how much Howard does prepare us for opportunities like this in and out of the classroom,” he says. “Being the multifaceted beings that we are, we are able to flourish in spaces like these.” 

General Motors Multicultural Marketing Assistant Manager David Millege says that his main role is building the company’s “cultural capital” with programs such as Discover the Unexpected. As a Tuskegee University graduate with a sales and marketing degree, Millege knows firsthand the benefits of attending and partnering with HBCUs to offer students essential, niche programs with businesses such as General Motors.   

“It’s awesome,” Millege says. “Not only do I get a chance to interview and bring people into the organization, but they look like me and have had a similar experience of attending an HBCU. That mentorship piece and just wanting the most for them [by] figuring out how to bring the most out of these students is a natural [approach] at HBCUs.”  

Starting as a journalism-focused program, Discover the Unexpected now includes skill-building exercises in marketing, public relationships, and other communications sectors. With the media world in constant transformation, Millege is confident that each DTU participant will leave with an experience that “fast-tracks them to well-roundedness.” 

“This really solidifies my place as a young professional, and I definitely think working with Chevrolet and the NNPA, you're able to do so much,” Ukweli says. “You're able to really accumulate the best skill set. You can learn a little bit of this. You learn a little bit of that.” 

The DTU cohort is currently in week six of their 10-week program. The group most recently traveled to Nashville for an NNPA conference to initiate relationships with member publications of the Black Press Archives. They will also participate in a Chevrolet Trax content creation program, where they will work together to complete PR-related tasks such as paid media strategies.  

“We curated a video,” Bellevue says. “One of our team members asked the questions. He was on the on-air talent. Eshe came up with the questions and I recorded and edited. And [for] the Washington Informer, we got to cover their Juneteenth event.”  

In its first seven years of service, “Discover the Unexpected” has delivered more than $750,000 in stipends and scholarships to program participants and HBCUs. General Motors has sustained a 50-year partnership with the NNPA.  

After the Discover the Unexpected program, cohort members will also have an opportunity to transition to full-time positions with NNPA. The NNPA has their individual Howard partnerships such as the $2 million grant to Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center to digitize Moorland-Spingarn’s Black Press Archives.   

“I am passionate, excited, and humbled about the continual success and evolution of our relationship with Chevrolet for DTU,” says Benjamin Chavis, NNPA president and CEO. “This is a life-changing opportunity for HBCU students, professionally and personally, preparing them for their professional careers.”  

Discover the Unexpected is curated and led by HBCU advocates, as well. In addition to Millege, STEM advocate and Hampton University graduate Justin “Mr. Fascinate” Shaifer, ESPN color commentator and Florida A&M University graduate Tiffany Greene, and media personality and North Carolina A&T graduate Terrence Jenkins (better known as Terrence J) all serve as cohort mentors for the program.  

Mentoring for the third year, Jenkins expressed sentiments about supporting HBCU talent throughout Discover the Unexpected. 

“Having support and opportunities during your college years is invaluable and will set you on a path of lifelong success,” Jenkins says. “As a proud HBCU graduate, I am thrilled to collaborate with Chevrolet and the NNPA again to uplift the next generation of talented journalists, marketers, and content creators.”