On Sept. 4, FedEx Logistics (FXL) launched a first-of-its-kind program at Mississippi Valley State that aims to create a diverse pipeline of talent from the Delta. FXL did this by creating a satellite office at MVSU specifically for students to work part-time, gain experience and potentially gain full-time employment with FXL in the future. Mississippi Today recently talked with MVSU spokesperson Brittany Davis-Green about how the program operates and what the opportunity means for the students. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity and appeared first in The Delta Beat newsletter, Mississippi Today’s Delta bureau’s monthly digest of news, culture and education analysis. Sign up for The Delta Beat here.

MT: Can you walk me through how the program came to be? 

A: FedEx logistics is a subsidiary of FedEx Corporation. They reached out to some of our administration about the possibility of opening a satellite office on campus for their HBCU program. And, of course, we jumped right on it. Our team worked closely with FedEx’s team to bring the idea to fruition. It’s the FedEx Logistics HBCU program, and it came out of FedEx’s commitment to develop diverse talent in the communities, so we all got all hands on deck and worked together to make it happen. MVSU is the first HBCU to participate in the program and, from that partnership, the satellite coming to campus happened. Our students are working there and earning a competitive wage and getting the opportunity to gain work experience. 

Q: Can you tell me more about how the program actually works? What are the students doing when they go in every day?

A: When a lot of people think about FedEx, they just think about packages. But, actually, if you go in the office right now, it’s rows and rows of computers. And, basically, what [the students] do is they help support operations at other locations across the country. So we don’t actually deal with handling packages. But, what they do is kind of like a customs clearance operation. They clear packages to enter the U.S. at a variety of transportation hubs that FedEx has.

Q: What kind of jobs are they?

A: It’s a variety of part-time positions. But, all of them support our FedEx International Import Clearance Department, which is under FedEx logistics. 

Q: What kind of skills are the students learning?

A: It varies – everything from data entry, documentation, classification, customer service, basically office-related tasks. And, in addition to getting paid, they’re working [about] 25 hours per week, they have the opportunity to get tuition assistance through FedEx and access to health, dental and vision benefits after 90 days. And, they can come in with no experience and they’re trained on the job. 

Q: Once students get the job can they stay in the program as long as they’re at MSVU or is there a cap on the program?

A: No. We call it a program, but they’re FedEx employees. Once they get hired on, if they’re a student at MVSU and they’re in good academic standing, they can work there. So, it’s not like they just do it for a semester. 

Q: Do you have to be enrolled in a specific major to qualify for it?

A: No. It’s open to all MVSU students. They just have to be in good standing. 

Q: Are there other programs like this at MVSU or is this the first of its kind?

A: This is the first of its kind and not only for us but also for FedEx. We have different career pathway programs, but this one is unique because they don’t have to leave the campus to get to work … for us, the need to work is a barrier for a lot of our students because they want to get a degree, but, at the same time, they have to live and take care of their family. So, that’s what made this program so unique. 

Q: What does an opportunity like this mean for students from the Delta? 

A: I think it’s really transformative. I know for me, I was a first generation college student. My parents couldn’t really afford a lot of the things I needed for college so I had to work. It just so happened to work for me that I was able to have an employer who was flexible and understood. But, it’s hard for people to find a full-time job, let alone a part-time flexible job when you’re a student. I just think the fact that we’re able to offer this opportunity to our students is really great and it’s really transformative, because they don’t have to worry as much about money. They can focus on their studies and they’re more likely to finish their degree without having to stop just because of the issue of needing to work and needing to go to school. 

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Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she worked as a Mississippi Delta-based reporter covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.