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John Chambers empowers underrepresented WVU students to become entrepreneurs

John Chambers

WVU alumnus John Chambers, former Executive Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems and current founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures, contributed $1 million through the Chambers Family Foundation to establish the program.

The visionary namesake behind West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics is empowering underrepresented students to transform West Virginia’s economy through entrepreneurship and innovation via a new Chambers Fellows program.

WVU alumnus John Chambers, former Executive Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems and current founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures, contributed $1 million through the Chambers Family Foundation to establish the program. It’s the latest in a series of philanthropic leadership endeavors designed to move WVU and West Virginia forward by fostering entrepreneurship, start-ups and inclusive job creation.

“In today’s world, you either disrupt or you get disrupted,” Chambers said. “The concerted effort across the public, private and academic sectors in West Virginia are driving the state’s transformation through inclusive job creation, training opportunities and a stronger innovation ecosystem. I’m excited to partner with leaders at WVU, like President Gordon Gee and Chambers College Dean Javier Reyes, to contribute resources that will help my home state become a startup state and model for the rest of our country and the world.”

Beginning in fall 2021, up to four students majoring in entrepreneurship, management information systems or computer engineering (with a minor in entrepreneurship) will be selected each academic year as Chambers Fellows. Preference will be given to students from underrepresented groups to increase diversity among the student body.

All honorees will receive a scholarship – up to $10,000 for in-state students and up to $17,500 for out-of-state students – for the cost of attendance. Funds will also be available to support and offset student costs associated with academic enrichment opportunities, such as study abroad, internships and more.

"This generous investment provides a tremendous opportunity for our students to hone their leadership skills," WVU Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Meshea L. Poore said. "Advancement for our students and society at large comes from investments just like this one that disrupts the status quo, opening new lanes for creativity and innovation."

Chambers’ gift comes amid efforts to ensure inclusiveness on WVU’s campuses. WVU leaders are taking action, as recommended by working groups focused on five key areas: academics, campus environment, campus and community partnerships, development of Black student leaders, and University policing.

“John Chambers challenged us to dream big when we named our College after him two years ago, and we can truly dream big when we build inclusivity into the fabric of our College,” Reyes said. “Through John’s continued generosity and investment in our College, we will give all students the experiences and opportunities needed to innovate in a post-COVID world that will be fueled by startups and digitization.”

As part of the Chambers Fellows program, additional funds will be provided to the College each year to support programming designed to enhance the student learning experience. Possibilities include a speaker series, engagement activities involving successful alumni and business leaders, and student participation in national conferences that develop technical and entrepreneurial skills. The program reflects the College’s reimagined approach to business education, which emphasizes the importance of experiential learning and an entrepreneurial mindset in cultivating future leaders.

Chambers is an expert at driving technology disruptions and catching market transitions, and he is well-suited to help WVU do the same at this pivotal moment in time. At JC2 Ventures, Chambers supports disruptive startups from around the world to build and scale, while also promoting the broader development of startup nations and a startup world. He invests in companies across categories and geographies, mentoring and coaching the next generation of CEOs in an effort to change the world “one more time.” A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Chambers earned his bachelor’s degree in business and a law degree from WVU.

The gift from Chambers was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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