The business of helping people
Entrepreneurship and philanthropy are two values Robert Jordan
takes to heart. After graduating from NAU with a finance degree in 1993, Jordan
went on to create and sell companies in several different industries.
Now, he is using his success to support future entrepreneurs
through the Jordan Scholars program.
Every year, three incoming African American freshmen who are majoring
in business and demonstrate an interest in entrepreneurship are selected for
the program. As Jordan Scholars, the students receive $3,000 per year, for up
to four years.
Paying it forward
For Jordan Scholar Tobechukwu “Tobe” Okeke, ’18 marketing, the
financial support she receives makes all the difference in the world.
“Because of scholarships like this one, I’m not paying anything
out of pocket to go to school,” Okeke says. “All the money I’m earning from
working can go toward my business when I’m ready to start it.”
Okeke has excellent role models to thank for her desire to start
her own business: her parents. Both immigrants from Nigeria and registered
nurses, her parents recently started their own healthcare business in which
they and their employees visit sick, elderly patients in their homes.
Okeke’s parents taught her the value of caring for others, and
the Jordan Scholars program has provided her the means to put her ambition into
action—after graduating, she plans to start a non-profit, human development
organization that empowers people to break out of labels and stereotypes and
achieve their dreams.
“My business centers around helping others to develop confidence
and building them up so they know that who they are is good enough,” she
explains. “I want to help people
realize that regardless of their skin color, or where they are in life, or
whether they’re rich or poor, they shouldn’t let that hold them back or
Okeke acknowledges that non-profit work is not always the most
lucrative career path, which is why she’s grateful for the financial assistance
she’s receiving as a Jordan Scholar.
“I’m so thankful to Robert Jordan, and appreciate what he's done for me,” Okeke says. “He didn’t have to do anything, but he did, and it
has helped my family so much. It’s allowing me to do what I want in life.”
The Jordan Scholars program is also intended to close the gap
between African American and white self-employment. According to a 2010 study
by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, whites were nearly two times as likely
to be self-employed than African Americans, despite a University of Michigan
study that showed African Americans indicate a stronger desire to be self-employed.
Through his program, Jordan hopes to encourage African American
students to explore a wide variety of career options.
“I want to help the university expand its outreach, particularly
for African American students,” he says. “I want them to consider opportunities
that maybe they haven’t thought about before.”
Funding the future
Okeke’s entrepreneurial spirit is exactly what Jordan wants to
encourage in students. He believes Northern Arizona University provided him the
tools and real-world perspective he needed to be successful in his business
“The university gave me an opportunity, where maybe some schools
wouldn’t have,” Jordan says. “There were a couple of classes that made me think
about business through the lens of an employer. I walked away from those
courses feeling as though I could build a company and follow my own path.”
When he decided to give to the university, he knew he wanted to
provide students with similar opportunities.
“If other kids can receive the same type of experiences that I
had, then who knows where that might take them,” he says. “I think it is about
providing the tools and resources, which creates opportunity.”