The Vision

Making Diversity and Inclusion and Action

A story from our founder.


I attended Dillard University, an HBCU in New Orleans for undergrad and attended Yale University, an Ivy League for graduate school.

When I finished at Yale, I moved back home to Los Angeles and began applying to jobs only to realize that securing a job was much more difficult than I would have imagined. My husband (who is also a co-founder) also struggled in securing employment, despite having two degrees as well. After one month of applying for jobs (and visiting the beach because it was free) we were finally able to secure a job in our field. I was the policy director for a local nonprofit organization, and realized that if I did not have my social capital, I would not have a job.

Six months later, we quit our jobs to focus solely on Jobs R 4 U after being dissatisfied with the work environments we were in. We began partnering with local and national organizations to host workshops and career fairs for free in LA.

In doing this, I realized so many colleagues and friends of friends also struggled in finding opportunities, particularly people who graduated from HBCUs. I would come across people with high GPAs, internship experience, campus and community involvement -- essentially everything we are told we need to secure a job in the 21st Century, but for some reason, it still wasn’t enough.

I began doing research about unemployment rates, and discovered that the average unemployment rate for black college graduates is 4.1 percent—nearly two times the average unemployment rate for white college graduates (2.4 percent) and equivalent to the unemployment rate of whites with an associate’s degree or who have not completed college.

I dug a little deeper and saw that OUR HBCUs were/are responsible for some of the biggest and brightest minds in the Black community. In 2016, HBCUs awarded 35,759 (or 20%) of degrees to Black students of the 177,900 degrees awarded to Black students in the nation. There are currently 4,724 degree-granting institutions in the US and HBCUs makeup 2.1% of that total. I realized HBCUs were holding up their end of the bargain by educating and preparing students for opportunities, but there was a missing link between education and career.

I began to think about how many of the Fortune 500 companies and tech companies gravitated towards Yale to recruit students, but never visited my HBCU. As I began to connect with more HBCU graduates, I listened to their stories about how they also thought they did everything right, but still couldn’t find a job in their field. I thought about the term “diversity and inclusion” and how many companies may have overlooked the talent at HBCUs.

I asked myself, “What would diversity and inclusion look like in action?” So we sat down and mapped out each HBCU. We said, “What if we visited every HBCU, connected with students, hosted workshops and connected them to opportunities, and also found unique ways to engage with people who have already graduated?”

We decided we wanted to prepare and place 20,000 HBCU students and graduates to job and internship opportunities by the year 2020, and launched HBCU 20x20 on Labor Day of 2017


Nicole Tinson-Johnson

President + CEO, HBCU 20x20

 Nicole Tinson-Johnson, President + CEO of HBCU 20x20 speaking to work-study students before an event at Dillard University

Nicole Tinson-Johnson, President + CEO of HBCU 20x20 speaking to work-study students before an event at Dillard University