HBCU students conquer Unum Innovation Challenge

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HBCU students conquer Unum Innovation Challenge

Innovation Challenges harness people’s talent and creativity to solve real-world problems.

For Unum and other companies in the insurance industry, one challenge is developing new benefits for the workforce’s changing needs.

That’s why Unum, in partnership with The Company Lab (CO.LAB), created the 2019 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Innovation Challenge.

Thirty-two HBCU juniors and seniors from ten states were selected and traveled to Chattanooga to participate, most visiting the city for the first time. With very little preexisting knowledge of the insurance industry, the students were divided into teams, assigned business coaches and given less than 24 hours to come up with a business case to pitch.

For Fayetteville State University senior Ahriana Edwards, she enjoyed how the Innovation Challenge charged her teammates to work together and draw from their different perspectives. But she said the best part was “seeing how you can contribute innovative ideas to the group and connecting with the next generation of leaders.”

That’s exactly what Wade Hinton, vice president of Inclusion and Diversity at Unum, and CO.LAB CEO Marcus Shaw had in mind when they launched the Challenge.

“At Co.Lab, we think of innovation not just in terms of cool new devices or new widgets but also about talent,” Shaw said. “And so our partnership with Unum is really about how do we bring new talent into the fold to think about innovative solutions for their company.”

Some of the ideas pitched included divorce insurance, a voice activated insurance app named Vivi, and extended family coverage.

Beyond gaining real-world work experience, students got to meet peers from around the country and work with a potential employer as they near the end of their college career. Four teams also won cash prizes for their business cases.

“It was a privilege for us to have these high caliber students at our organization,” said Liz Ahmed, executive vice president for Unum. “We hope the students gained a better understanding of the benefits industry and longer lasting relationships with their peers, coaches and with Unum.”

This event marks the second collaboration this year between Unum and CO.LAB. This spring, in partnership with Unum and Erlanger, CO.LAB launched its inaugural HealthTech Accelerator focused on connecting emerging healthcare startups with leaders in the healthcare and employee benefits industries.

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