These three employees, alums of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, are helping the firm support the next generation of Black students through our Morgan Stanley HBCU Scholars Program.
Alita Wingfield, Leon Henderson, Jr. and Nii Dodoo aren’t just colleagues at Morgan Stanley. They share the common bond of having graduated from a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and—as employee ambassadors of our HBCU Scholars program—of continuing their commitment to those schools and their students long after they graduated.
Wingfield, a Managing Director in the Legal and Compliance division and the Head of the firm’s Compliance training program, attended Spelman College as an undergraduate and Howard University Law School. Henderson, a Managing Director in Wealth Management, holds a degree in architecture from Howard University, as well as an MBA from Harvard Business School. And Dodoo, an Executive Director in the Fixed Income Division, graduated from Morehouse College with a double major in finance and math and a minor in computer science.
All three say the experience of attending one or more of the HBCUs, 101 institutions across the country that were established before the civil rights movement to serve the African-American community, was transformative in ways they couldn’t imagine finding at any other college. “My son attends Harvard, but I was actually more excited when my daughter got into Spelman,” Wingfield says. “You leave there feeling like you can really conquer the world. I would not be the person I am today without Spelman and Howard.”
Given their deep bonds to HBCUs, including spouses and children who also attended, it’s not surprising that all three serve on a group that oversees the Morgan Stanley HBCU Scholars Program. Launched in 2020, through Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Inclusion, the program offers full scholarships to qualified students attending Howard, Morehouse and Spelman. Additionally, it trains students in career skills to help set them on a life-long path to success.
Morgan Stanley began the program by providing five academic and needs-based four-year scholarships at each institution, with the goal of adding a new class of scholars each year for a class size of 60 by 2024. The scholarships cover the entire cost of attending the institution for each academic year and are open to students across all disciplines and majors.
Henderson, whose daughter chose to attend Howard over other top universities, says that the firm’s HBCU alums have a practical, as well as emotional, reason to get involved: Many remain connected to their alma maters throughout their careers. “A lot of us are already in touch with HBCUs, particularly around the effort to hire graduates to join our teams, so I give credit to the firm—I think it was a good call to have us work on this initiative.”
And, while the scholarships come with no strings attached—students are free to pursue whatever field they wish to after graduation—the three hope that the program will open a world of possibilities at Morgan Stanley for those who may not have otherwise considered a career in the financial industry.
“To provide greater exposure to students who don’t know about our industry is something that I’m very excited about,” says Wingfield, who notes that the financial sector as a whole could use more bright and talented Black graduates, like the ones who will be part of the Morgan Stanley HBCU Scholar program. “It’s an opportunity for us to recruit more diverse candidates and to get more diverse people interested in our industry, which lacks diversity in many different areas,” says Henderson.
Wingfield, Henderson and Dodoo also welcome the chance to support the schools themselves, which they believe offer Black students a unique experience. “To have professors who look like you, who truly care about your success, and other students who look like you, who are dealing with the same struggle and the same challenges is invaluable,” Wingfield says.
Dodoo agrees. “The experience [of attending Morehouse] was unbelievable. I was with a group of highly talented people who could relate to me. But beyond that, the small class size, the teachers who were invested in every student, the powerful alumni network—those were things my friends at other schools didn’t necessarily have. To this day, the Morehouse alum who helped me land my first job in banking, holding my hand throughout the interview process, is like a brother to me.”
Dodoo joined the HBCU Ambassador team in early 2022 and says the day he interviewed students for the program’s latest cohort brought tears to his eyes. “Hearing how some of them didn’t know how they were going to be able to afford to continue their education and knowing how we could make a difference—I got emotional. I don’t know of another program that has this sort of profound impact on the lives of young people.”
He and his colleagues hope to continue to make that difference as the program expands into its third year and beyond. Says Wingfield, “As long as I’m at Morgan Stanley, I’ll be on the HBCU working group, constantly thinking about how to engage these students and how to make the program even bigger and better.” Dodoo hopes to one day welcome some of those students to Morgan Stanley himself. “I could easily see not just one or two students but several of them working alongside me. As I see it, it’s not just likely, it’s highly likely.”