5 Reasons to Go Back to School This Year (and how to do it)

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education and workforce

By Crystal Ladwig, Ph.D.

We all want good paying jobs, job security, and the chance to make a better life for ourselves and our families. For many adults, that may mean going back to school to learn new skills or even to get a degree.

With that in mind, here are five reasons to go back to school this year and how to do it.

1. College degree required

While there are still many vocational occupations that don’t require a college degree, more and more jobs require one. In fact, within the next few years, 65 percent of jobs will require some sort of post-secondary training. This means that many jobs that haven’t historically required a college degree will require one soon. Going back to school now will better prepare workers for this growing trend so that they will be prepared as college degrees are required more frequently.

2. Career advancement

Even if you have a degree in the area of your chosen profession, a college degree may be advantageous to you. Seeking a higher education degree shows employers a drive and hunger on the part of an employee and keeps skills current. Such positive views of an employee go a long way when you’re up for a promotion.

3. Job security

The stress and fear that go along with the possibility of losing a job are immense. In the current political climate with its ups and downs, we’ve come to expect that workers seek to do all they can to secure their jobs. Research shows that those with higher degree levels are less likely to be unemployed. Those who do lose their jobs are much more likely to get hired by a new employer more quickly if they have a higher-level college degree.

4. Higher salary

Historical trends show that those with college degrees make more money than those without them. This trend of higher salaries for college graduates continues to this day. Not only that, but having a higher education level within a career means more money, too. For example, two public school teachers teach second grade at a local elementary school. One has a Bachelor’s degree while the other has a Master’s degree. In districts throughout the country, the one with the Master’s degree will make more money even though they do the exact same work.

5. Career flexibility or second career

There are many reasons why people change careers as adults. Your company may be downsizing. You may be seeking something new and challenging. You may just be working with the wrong leaders. Regardless of your reasons, workers today have the ability now more than ever to get a new degree to add flexibility to their careers or even to start on a new one.

Where to start

The decision to go back to school isn’t easy. And once you make that decision, there’s still a lot to do. Start with choosing a degree program, college, and instructional format. Are you seeking a new career or to advance your current one? What colleges or universities offer degrees in that area? Do you prefer to learn in a traditional, face-to-face program, or would you be open to an online degree program? Online programs have been expanding and have been a viable option for going back to school–you can get an online computer science degree, a sports medicine degree, or learn game design online. Answering those questions helps you decide where to apply.

Dr. Crystal Ladwig headshot
Dr. Crystal Ladwig

Contact admissions offices at each college you’re interested in to find out what you need to do to apply. There may be entrance exams that you need to take, letters of reference you need to acquire, or other steps appropriate for an adult returning to school. Explore your financial aid options as well. There are ways to cut costs, some designed especially for workers returning to school.

Finally, start organizing your time for the coming year. You can work full time, raise a family, and go to school, but it takes planning and organization. There are more options than ever for adults going back to school. Explore your reasons and options, seek guidance from admissions officers, and get ready to soar!

Dr. Crystal Ladwig has taught online and face-to-face college courses for 20 years. She specializes in training future teachers and researches the training of teachers to work with students with challenging behaviors.

40th College Television Awards Submission Period Begins Sept. 5

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College Television Awards logo

The Television Academy Foundation Awards Ceremony Celebrates Student-Produced Programs From Colleges Nationwide. The submission period for the Television Academy Foundation’s 40th College Television Awards is Sept. 5 through Oct. 3, 2019.

Each year hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students, representing colleges and universities nationwide, submit their media projects to television’s most prestigious student competition—the Television Academy Foundation’s College Television Awards.

The College Television Awards honors achievement in student-produced programs and will feature stars from today’s top television shows presenting awards to winners at the red-carpet awards ceremony.

Emulating the Emmy® Awards selection process, entries for the College Television Awards are judged by Television Academy members. Top honors and a $3,000 cash prize will be presented to winning teams in eight categories: drama, comedy, animation, nonfiction, promotional, news, sports and variety. The College Television Awards also includes two additional, donor-supported, categories: the Seymour Bricker Humanitarian Award and the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship.

In addition to the awards ceremony, the nominees will take part in a three-day television summit hosted by the Television Academy Foundation. The summit, designed to enhance professional development, will feature panel discussions, studio tours and networking opportunities with industry executives and Academy members.

The College Television Awards often serves as an entry point for a career in television for nominees and winners. Past alumni have worked as editors, writers, producers and other positions on programs including Ray Donovan, The Handmaid’s Tale, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, CBS This Morning, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grey’s Anatomy, 60 Minutes, Empire and many more.

For additional information, visit TelevisionAcademy.com/CTA.

To read the complete article continue on to The Patch.

WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge Unveils New Origami Exhibit with STEM Focus

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Young girl proudly holding an origami that she made

WonderWorks, located in Pigeon Forge, is adding more fun and educational opportunities. The new feature will have an origami exhibit that has an education focus on math (STEM).

The STEM exhibit will introduce people to how math is related to the art of origami. The new exhibit is available to the public that began on August 25, 2019, and is included with the regular admission price.

“The origami exhibit just adds another element to help us achieve our core objectives as a company,” says Ed Shaffer, general manager for WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge. “We always strive to make sure our guests have fun and make memories to cherish, but we also hope they learn a little something along the way.”

The origami exhibit is education-focused, providing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities. Origami, which originated in Japan, is the art of folding paper in a sequence to get a particular shape. What many people don’t realize is that origami has a strong connection with math and can help kids understand math concepts better. This is because origami designs contain complex geometric patterns, angles, and shapes. Origami is believed to help improve student’s skills, by strengthening their understanding of geometry, fractions, and improving problem solving skills.

The origami exhibit will be a new addition to the Gallery of Wonders, which currently also offers a series of optical illusion artwork pieces that will adorn the attractions  second floor. The artwork pieces contain hidden objects, riddles, and will challenge people. Optical illusions trick the eye and give people a chance to explore different perspectives.

“Educational value is a big part of our attraction. With a constant stream of school groups and field trips of all kinds, we are always looking for ways to engage the students and assist our teachers in making the most out of their visit with us, ”added Shaffer.

WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge offers 35,000 square feet of “edu-tainment” opportunities, billing itself as an amusement park for the mind. They offer over 100 hands-on exhibits covering natural disasters, space discovery, an imagination lab, a physical challenge zone, a far out art gallery, and a light and sound zone. WonderWorks is open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. For more information, log onto their site: wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks, a science focused indoor amusement park, combines education and entertainment. With over 100 hands-on exhibits – there is something unique and challenging for all ages. Feel the power of 71mph hurricane–force winds in the Hurricane Shack. Make huge, life–sized bubbles in the Bubble Lab. Get the NASA treatment in our Astronaut Training Gyro and experience zero gravity. Nail it by lying on the death–defying Bed of Nails. Conquer your fear of heights on our indoor Glow-In-The-Dark Ropes Course. WonderWorks is also home to Wonders of Magic, starring Terry Evanswood, the award-winning and longest running performer in Pigeon Forge. WonderWorks hosts birthday parties and special events seasonally. Open daily from 9 a.m. until midnight. wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge

Teachers Get in Free During Teacher Wonder Days at WonderWorks Orlando

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WonderWorks Orlando

WonderWorks Orlando is inviting teachers in the state of Florida to check out all they have to offer for free on select dates in September and October 2019. During Teacher Wonder Days, educators can learn about all the programs they offer.

Teachers will get free admission into WonderWorks Orlando on Friday and Saturday, September 28-29, 2019 and October 5-6, 2019. Each additional guest they bring will only be $15 per person.

“WonderWorks Orlando looks forward to hosting our annual Teacher Wonder Days, where we invite teachers and their families from all over the state of Florida to experience WonderWorks’ educational, upside down adventure!” says Brian Wayne, general manager of WonderWorks Orlando. “Over 1,500 teachers registered for our 2018 event and we look forward to surpassing that for 2019!”

Teachers who would like to take part in the program need to RSVP online. Each teacher will also receive a goodie bag filled with coupons and items from local businesses and attractions. WonderWorks Orlando will also be giving away door prizes, and there will be a special guest appearance by Professor Wonder. Everyone who attends Teacher Wonder Days will also be entered to win $500 worth of school supplies. Teachers can RSVP at the WonderWorks Orlando website: wonderworksonline.com/orlando/rsvp/.

Educators will not only get a chance to have fun and see the way families are challenged at WonderWorks, but they will also learn about a variety of the programs they offer. The special programs they offer include:

  • School fundraisers. The program allows your school or class to have a spirit night, with your class or school receiving a portion of the proceeds.
  • Sensory days. These are special days where exhibits are altered to provide limited stimulation for children with special needs.
  • Homeschool days. WonderWorks offers special homeschool days with discounted rate for homeschoolers.
  • Scout programs. There are programs offered for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, including appreciation days and sleepovers.
  • School field trip programs. WonderWorks offers a unique educational field trip opportunity, where kids can learn about earth science, physics, astronomy, and more.

WonderWorks in Orlando is an adventure that tourists and locals both enjoy. The indoor amusement park is open 365 days per year from 9:00 a.m. until midnight. WonderWorks features a glow-in-the-dark ropes course, laser tag, 4D XD motion theater, magic comedy dinner show, and the Wonder Zones, which include interactive exhibits on natural disasters, space discovery, light and sound zone, imagination lab, far out art gallery, and a physical challenge zone. With over 35,000 square feet of “edu-tainment,” the attraction combines education and entertainment with over 100 hands-on exhibits. To get more information or purchase tickets, visit the site at: wonderworksonline.com/orlando/

Apply For The Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Fellowship Sponsored by ADP

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The Reaching Out LGBTQ MBA Fellowship (ROMBA) was created as a joint effort between top business school programs and Reaching Out to demonstrate that business schools are the top destination to develop the out LGBTQ and active ally business leaders of tomorrow.

​The LGBTQ MBA Fellowship recipients each receive a minimum of $10,000 scholarship per academic year or $20,000 total scholarship, and also receive access to exclusive mentorship and leadership development programming through Reaching Out. 55 members of The Class of 2019 will collectively receive over $1,300,000 for each year of their MBA experience!

Click here for full view of flyer

Learn more about the fellowship at reachingoutmba.org

Higher Education Recruitment Consortium appoints new Executive Director, Ian Reynolds, to lead commitment to equitable academic workplaces

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Ian Reynolds headshot

The Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ian Reynolds as Executive Director. HERC is a national, nonprofit coalition consisting of over 700 member institutions, committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the higher education workforce.

“Ian’s leadership skills, ability to build partnerships, extensive higher education experience, and background in work-life issues will be tremendous assets to HERC as we continue to grow and thrive,” said Eddie Freeman, Chair of HERC’s Board of Directors and Executive Director of Equal Opportunity Services, University of Texas at Arlington.

Prior to joining HERC, Reynolds served as Director of WorkLife and Community Programs in the Office of Work, Life, and Engagement at Johns Hopkins University and Health System from 2011 – 2019. He oversaw the development and delivery of a variety of programs and services designed to assist faculty and staff navigate the competing demands between work and life. From 2014 – 2016, Reynolds was President of the College and University Work-Life-Family Association (CUWFA), a longtime partner of HERC. CUWFA facilitates the integration of work and study with family and personal life at higher learning institutions.

“My career has been dedicated to creating engaging and inclusive workplaces in higher education. In my new role with HERC, that work takes on new meaning, reach, and impact. I look forward to working with HERC’s dedicated community to harness recruitment, selection, and retention challenges as opportunities for inclusive excellence,” said Reynolds of his role as Executive Director.

ABOUT THE HIGHER EDUCATION RECRUITMENT CONSORTIUM: The Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) catalyzes inclusive excellence in the academic workforce. HERC diversifies the pipeline of faculty, staff, and executives in academia through outreach, advertising, and by sharing over 40,000 job opportunities and expert career advice. HERC also provides over 700 member institutions with resources and networks to bolster equitable, inclusive recruitment and retention practices.

Cmd-It Announces 2019 Richard A. Tapia Award Winner Cristina Villalobos

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Cristina Villalobos poses in a gray blazer and red blouse

CMD-IT recently announced the recipient of The Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science and Diversifying Computing is Cristina Villalobos, the Myles and Sylvia Aaronson Professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Founding Director of the Center of Excellence in STEM Education.

The Richard A. Tapia Award is given annually to an individual who is a distinguished computational or computer scientist or computer engineer and who is making significant contributions to civic areas such as teaching, mentoring, advising, and building and serving communities. The individual is also one who demonstrates extraordinary leadership in increasing the participation of groups who are underrepresented in the sciences.

“Cristina Villalobos is a leading mathematician in the fields of optimization, optimal control and modelling,” said Valerie Taylor, CMD-IT CEO and President. “Throughout her career she has significantly impacted different applications areas through her research in optimization; impacting areas such as the treatment of eye disease and the design of antennas. In addition, Cristina has focused on strengthening STEM academic programs, providing resources for the academic and professional development of students and faculty, and increasing the number of underrepresented students attaining STEM degrees. She has been a leader in student mentoring, increasing the number of Hispanic students pursuing PhD’s in mathematics.”

The Richard A. Tapia award will be presented at the 2019 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference. Themed “Diversity: Building a Stronger Future,” the Tapia Conference will be held September 18-21, in San Diego, California. The Tapia Conference is the premier venue to bring together students, faculty, researchers and professionals from all backgrounds and ethnicities in computing to promote and celebrate diversity in computing. The Tapia Conference is sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and presented by the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT).

The Tapia conference sponsors include Diamond Sponsor Qualcomm, Platinum Sponsors Caltech, Cornell Computing and Information Science, Georgia Tech, JP Morgan Chase & Co, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Rice University, Stanford University Computer Science, STARS Computing Corps, Two Sigma, University of California Berkeley, University of California San Diego Science and Engineering Department, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and University of Michigan. Gold Sponsors include Atlassian, Blendoor, Capital One, Cisco, CRA, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Google, Harvey Mudd College, Kennesaw State University, University of Maryland, College Park, University of North Carolina Charlotte and Virginia Tech. Gold Government Supporters include Argonne National Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory.

The early bird pricing for the Tapia Conference ends July 8th. For more information and to register for the Tapia Conference, visit tapiaconference.org.

About CMD-IT

The vision of CMD-IT is to contribute to the national need for an effective workforce in computing and IT through inclusive programs and initiatives focused on minorities and people with disabilities. CMD-IT’s vision is accomplished through its mission to ensure that underrepresented groups are fully engaged in computing and IT, and to promote innovation that enriches, enhances and enables underrepresented communities. For more information, please visit cmd-it.org.

Google announces literary activities to help kids evaluate and analyze media as they browse the Internet

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Mom and dughter looking at a tablet together

Google is pleased to announce the addition of 6 new media literacy activities to the 2019 edition of Be Internet Awesome. Designed to help kids analyze and evaluate media as they navigate the Internet, the new lessons address educators’ growing interest in teaching media literacy.

They were developed in collaboration with Anne Collier, executive director of The Net Safety Collaborative, and Faith Rogow, PhD, co-author of The Teacher’s Guide to Media Literacy and a co-founder of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. Because media literacy is essential to safety and citizenship in the digital age, the news lessons complement Be Internet Awesome ’s digital safety and citizenship topics.

Overview of new activities:
1. Share with Care: That’s not what I meant!
● Overview: Students will learn the importance of asking the question: “How might others interpret what I share?” They’ll learn to read visual cues people use to communicate information about themselves and to draw conclusions about others.

2. Share with Care: Frame it
● Overview: Students will learn to see themselves as media creators. They’ll understand that media makers make choices about what to show and what to keep outside the frame. They’ll apply the concept of framing to understand the difference between what to make visible and public online and what to keep “invisible.”

3. Don’t Fall for Fake: Is that really true?
● Overview: Students will learn how to apply critical thinking to discern between what’s credible and non-credible in the many kinds of media they run into online.

4. Don’t Fall for Fake: Spotting disinformation online
● Overview: Students will learn how to look for and analyze clues to what is and isn’t reliable information online.

5. It’s Cool to Be Kind: How words can change a picture
● Overview: Students will learn to make meaning from the combination of pictures and words and will understand how a caption can change what we think a picture is communicating. They will gain an appreciation for the power of their own words, especially when combined with pictures they post.

6. When in Doubt, Talk It Out: What does it mean to be brave?
● Overview: Students will think about what it means to be brave online and IRL, where they got their ideas about “brave” and how media affect their thinking about it.

Expanding resources to families
YMCA
We teamed up with the YMCA across six cities to host bilingual workshops for parents to help teach families about online safety and digital citizenship with Be Internet Awesome and help families create healthy digital habits with the Family Link app. The workshops, designed for parents, coincide with June’s National Internet Safety Month and come at the start of the school summer holidays.

Continue on here to read more.

The University of Hawai’i Partners with SACNAS Conference to Help Achieve True Diversity in STEM

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The University of Hawaiʻi will be the Presenting Sponsor for 2019 SACNAS-The National Diversity in STEM Conference. UH will support the convening of more than 4,000 STEM professionals, scientists, engineers and college students at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center from October 31–November 2, 2019 for the country’s largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event.

The conference is produced and hosted by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), an inclusive organization with over 45 years of experience of fostering the success underrepresented minorities in STEM.

“With the most diverse campuses in the nation, the University of Hawaiʻi is perfectly aligned with the mission and goals of SACNAS,” said UH President David Lassner. “This is also an amazing opportunity to showcase the work of our faculty bringing together Hawaiʻi’s traditional indigenous knowledge and practice with modern science to better understand and address the challenges and opportunities we all face.”

Estimates show the conference’s thousands of attendees from across the nation could have an economic impact of more than $14 million on the state of Hawaiʻi. Through the sponsorship, UH looks forward to highlighting the STEM leadership and expertise, often seen through a unique indigenous lens, that abounds in its 10 campuses across the state. It will be an important opportunity to recruit faculty and students from underrepresented populations as the experience UH’s affordable community colleges committed to open access and student success, regional universities with distinctive hands-on programs, and the flagship UH Mānoa research university one of only a handful of land-, sea-, sun- and space-grant institutions and a global leader in earth and environmental sciences, consistently ranked among the top 15 universities internationally.

“The SACNAS conference is fully aligned with Hawaiʻi for partnering with SACNAS in the essential work of making the scientific enterprise diverse, equitable and inclusive, ” said SACNAS President Sonia Zárate.

“SACNAS is excited to work with the University of Hawaiʻi to develop relevant, meaningful, and culturally inclusive STEM programming that will reflect the values, community, and spirit of Hawaiʻi at this year’s conference. We look forward to welcoming students from across Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands. SACNAS is equally excited to develop a year-round partnership with the University of Hawaiʻi that will have a lasting impact well beyond the 2019 conference,” said John D. Winnett, SACNAS executive director.

New Comic Book Series to Spur Student Interest in STEM

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Ella the Engineer comic book picture

Deloitte and The Ella Project, creator of Ella the Engineer, launched a new collaborative comic book series with the goal of exposing girls to STEM in a fun and unique way.

The graphic novel series features comic book character Ella solving various problems using her STEM skill set under the guidance of various Deloitte leaders, including Deloitte Chair and Consulting CEO Janet Foutty and Chief Innovation Officer Nishita Henry.

Geared toward inspiring educational and student groups around the country, Ella the Engineer was created to showcase a young, female role model with a passion for science, technology, engineering, math, and entrepreneurship with whom many students can identify. The series champions problem-solving skills, tech-savviness, collaboration, and various emerging technologies to get to the bottom of hijinks and challenges facing the main characters. In the inaugural issue with Deloitte, Janet Foutty encourages Ella to use analytics to piece together the whereabouts of her stolen class pet. Deloitte’s involvement in this creative project underscores its long-standing commitment to diversity, inclusion and STEM education.

“Deloitte is committed to creating opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities to enter into productive careers in STEM and STEM adjacent fields – and it starts with early education,” said Janet Foutty, chair and CEO, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Despite ongoing efforts to gain parity, women currently only represent 28 percent of STEM jobs in the United States. The need for STEM workers will permeate every industry, as noted by a recent study by the National Association of Manufacturing and Deloitte. The study revealed a need for 3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025, with more than 2 million going unfilled due to the lack of highly skilled candidates to meet current demand.

Deloitte’s collaboration with The Ella Project is the latest in its efforts to create multiple pathways to STEM and STEM adjacent skills development and career opportunities to help build an inclusive and tech-savvy workforce.

“We are thrilled to have the support of Deloitte for The Ella Project,” said Ella founder Anthony Onesto. “This collaboration allows us the opportunity to highlight real life female role models in STEM; as their stories are woven into edutainment, we know to be invaluable to our future leaders. Ella, our tech savvy hero, is someone who young kids, girls and boys alike, can relate to and encourages the importance of critical-thinking throughout her exciting adventures.”

The series will be four comic books, plus a graphic novel. Other Deloitte leaders to be featured include Catherine Bannister, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP and chief talent officer, technology; and Kelly Herod, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

The graphic novel series will be circulated to schools and educational groups around the country in an effort to inspire new generations of tech talent.

Source: Deloitte

Common Name, Uncommon Path

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Common seated at the panel at the Black Caucus

By Jovane Marie

With a career spanning almost three decades, Common’s journey in the spotlight has been anything but.

Along the way, he’s gained an ever-expanding list of titles and credits that run the gamut: rapper, artist, father, actor, activist, model, author, designer, philanthropist, Microsoft ambassador, and Academy Award winner, to name a few.

But if you’re thinking that’s enough to satisfy this modern-day Renaissance Man, you’re wrong. “I revel in the fact that in being all of these things, I don’t have to choose,” said the multi-hyphenate talent. “I want to do and be more…what I’ve accomplished so far is great, but there is always more to achieve.”

Voice of the Future
Common might’ve had his start in the music industry, but he’s no stranger to the world of STEM. In fact, he’s had a long-standing relationship with tech behemoth Microsoft dating all the way back to 2008, when the two partnered to launch Softwear (a play on “software”), a retro clothing line of T-shirts featuring MS-DOS (an operating system) font. Six years later, that partnership was re-birthed as the tech giant searched for a spokesperson to helm its first Super Bowl commercial. Common sent in a tape explaining why he wanted to lend his voice, and the rest—they say—is history. Since the inaugural commercial in 2014, the artist has lent his voice to a multitude of commercials, shorts, and presentations touting the importance of advancing technology and the infinite possibilities created by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

“Technology is possibility, adaptability, and capability,” he muses in one spot. “It’s not about changing what came before—it’s about creating what comes next. Right now, we have more power at our fingertips than entire generations that came before us…the question is, what will we do with it?”

Actor to Activist
Common’s firm footing in the entertainment industry might sound like a full-time endeavor, but he has consciously created the time and space to enrich and advocate for the causes he believes in. “The truth is, you don’t have to be an actor, or an athlete, or an influencer to make a difference,” he said in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs. “All you have to do is have a desire the make the world a better place. Every human being can do it, and I have a desire to do my part.”

L to R-Lamar Johnson, Sabrina Carpenter, Russell Hornsby, Amandla Stenberg, Algee Smith and Common attend The Hate U Give New York Screening at Paris Theatre
L to R-Lamar Johnson, Sabrina Carpenter, Russell Hornsby, Amandla Stenberg, Algee Smith and Common attend “The Hate U Give” New York Screening at Paris Theatre.

This desire has manifested into fervent action focused on increasing and championing diversity and mentoring youth in the inner-cities of his home state, among other things.

In January, he delivered the closing keynote at the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion conference, a gathering of more than 250 Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officers (CDO) from an array of Fortune 500 companies on a mission to provide tangible, ready-to-implement strategies to encourage and increase diversity and inclusion both internally and within their local communities.

“My interest in promoting diversity was rooted in my looking in these communities and seeing certain people not having access to the same opportunities,” said the ardent advocator. “The undeniable fact is that we need to see more women and POC [people of color] in positions of power—same for different beliefs and those in the LGBTQ+ community.” “We have to figure out ways to increase the diversity, and that starts with a conversation. For me, I love being in a position where I can be a part of the paradigm shift and contribute to that conversation.”

Common performs onstage during OZY Fest
Common performs onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park in New York City.

Speaking to C-suite leaders about diversity isn’t the only way Common is lending his voice to the diversity conversation. In 2018, after African-American business partners Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were racially profiled in a Starbucks—causing national outrage—the chain subsequently closed 8,000 stores for a day to conduct anti-bias training. The voice they heard in those videos, stressing the importance of anti-discrimination and inclusivity? Take a guess. The art of the give-back has further manifested into the creation of the Common Ground Foundation, an organization dedicated to reach and impact inner-city youth in Chicago through mentorship and college-preparation programs. For more than a decade, the foundation has intimately focused on nutrition, healthy living, financial living, character development, and creative expression—even holding youth leadership conferences and summer camps. With more than $230,000 in scholarships awarded, a 100 percent graduation rate among participants, a 99 percent college attendance rate, and more than 2,500 collective hours of community service provided to the community, the organization has earned the distinction of an impactful labor of love.

Common with classroom full of school children.
Common visits NYC elementary school for Back-To-School fundraising with Burlington Stores and AdoptAClassroom. JAMIE MCCARTHY/GETTY IMAGES

“I started the Common Ground Foundation because I wanted to help,” said the philanthropist. “I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose, and I always believed that of we started with the youth, we’d be planting the seeds for our future to blossom.”

A Tale of Common Sense
Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn to an educator mother and youth counselor father, was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood of Chicago, where his foray into the world of music developed and thrived. Talented and precocious, he was writing lyrics by age 12, and at 15, formed a rap trio—C.D.R.—with two high school friends. Far from just an after-school hobby, the group served as an industry incubator, not only building his proficiency in writing, producing and performing, but also aiding in his personal branding as an artist.

“C.D.R. represented so much in my life, and it was the birthplace of a lot of artistic firsts,” remembered Common. “That acronym was a revolving door of different meanings—it mainly stood for Corey, Deon, Rashid [our names], but on other days, it was Compact Disc Recorder, or Recording Def Rhymes. We were learning how to record, making demos, writing songs, performing—just trying to figure ourselves out and do our thing.” Influenced by hip-hop’s titans of the time, including LL Cool J, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, and Rakim, C.D.R. went on to gain a footing in the industry, having their songs played on the University of Chicago’s local radio station and opening concerts for Big Daddy Kane, Eazy-E, and Too Short.

Upon graduation, Common enrolled at Florida A&M University under a scholarship, where he majored in business administration. His artistic streak remained uninterrupted, however, and in 1991, after being featured in The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column, he left A&M to sign with Relativity Records. It was under this label that he released his first album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”, using the moniker Common Sense. The album was an underground success, and laid the groundwork (as well as a growing fanbase) for his subsequent albums and collaborations. To date, Common has won more than 20 awards from various distinguished award bodies for his lyrics, albums and performances, including a 2015 Academy Award for his and singer John Legend’s original song “Glory” (from the Selma soundtrack), three Grammys, four BET Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy. He has also garnered over 40 nominations in the music industry.

More than Music
Had Common been content to produce records, pull awards, and perform his hits for dedicated fans around the world, that might’ve been the end of the story. But, true to his character, he always had his sights set for more—much more. He began making his mark in the film and television industry in the early 2000s, often making cameos as himself and later evolving into more complex roles in well-known films, such as American Gangster (starring Denzel Washington), Wanted, Just Wright, Suicide Squad, Selma (as activist James Bevel), and installments of the John Wick franchise, to name a few. His constantly growing acting portfolio, which currently includes more than 40 films, supports a long-term goal to eventually become one of the great actors of our time.

Common standing posing with his childrens book
Common with his children’s book, “I Like You but I Love Me”.

“I’m still working to get to where I want to be, and I’m always working to get to the next level,” he said. “The majority of roles I want, they’re looking at other actors for. But I’m always going to fight to prove myself.” As he works tirelessly to widen his range and nab multifaceted roles, Common is also focused on another goal: helping amplify the creative voices of others through his nearly five-year-old production company, Freedom Road Productions. To date, he has executive produced Showtime’s popular drama The Chi (created by screenwriter Lena Waithe, the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series), and last year, signed a deal to develop and produce new television series with Lionsgate TV.

On the Horizon
Common’s career in the spotlight has diverged into many paths during its three-decade journey, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Add to that his impactful work in mentorship, advocacy, and diversity, and a bevy of new projects within all of these fields, and it’s safe to say that he may never stop. Next up is his second book, Let Love Have the Last Word, a personal anthology exploring the core tenets of love to help others give and receive love to live better lives and build stronger communities. Following on the heels of his New York Times best-selling memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, the book is sure to be a page-turner.

On the film front, the actor will feature or star in three upcoming films: The Informer, The Kitchen, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Several TV series in collaboration with Lionsgate are also in the works. Simply put, Common wants to expand his experience, provide opportunities for others, and inspire.

“I want to live my passions, help others do the same, and make the world a better place, as much as I can,” he said. “This—all of this—inspires me to work harder and do more.”