GM Financial is reinforcing its commitment to help students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

This summer, the captive launched its first Sophomore Leadership Program to provide HBCU students with an in-depth, first-person look at the auto finance industry.

Officials highlighted the program is a component of GM Financial’s participation in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Partnership Challenge of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, designed to promote more corporate engagement with HBCUs, develop new career possibilities for students and improve diversity, equity and inclusion across industries.

The company added in a news release that the move also marks the start of a joint program between GM Financial and Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU outside of Houston.

“This program is part of our ongoing effort to increase diversity and promote inclusion within the company,” said Shunda Robinson, global vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for GM Financial. “Diversity is about the pipeline. We recognized that we needed to broaden the schools we were targeting with our internship programs, so we developed the Sophomore Leadership Program to contribute to bridging this gap.”

HBCUs currently comprise 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities, but enroll 10% of all African-American students and produce 20% of all African-American college graduates  and 25% of African Americans graduating with STEM degrees, according to information shared by GM Financial and cited from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

GM Financial president and chief executive officer Dan Berce said that initiatives like the Sophomore Leadership Program are critical to the company’s success.

“We envision this as an ongoing program that adds a new dimension to our continued efforts to increase diversity and build equity within our organization,” Berce said. “We know that by being a company whose workforce reflects the diversity of our customers and communities, we will be better able to understand and serve their needs.”

In juxtaposition to the company’s traditional summer internship program that caters to college juniors and seniors, GM Financial explained sophomores were selected for this program because the second year of college often represents a critical retention point in a student’s education, especially for HBCU students and students of color.

“Because of socioeconomic barriers and other challenges students of color may disproportionately face, some sophomores are unable to continue pursuing their college degree,” Robinson said. “The Sophomore Leadership Program is intended to offer students a highly competitive paid internship opportunity that raises their awareness of the career paths that define our industry, alongside a number of professional development and resume-building opportunities.”

GM Financial’s Sophomore Leadership Program interns started on June 1, with the program concluding on July 23. Their internships will be performed virtually except for one week on-location at Sewell Cadillac of Dallas.

During their internships, the students will job shadow team members from various functions such as sales, marketing and pricing. In so doing, they will learn about the company’s different job offerings and the core competencies required for each. And they will meet with senior executives, including a session with Berce.

GM Financial employees will also lead skill-specific workshops for the interns, covering topics such as networking, personal branding, diversity, equity and inclusion, and personal finance from the KEYS by GM Financial curriculum.

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