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TMCF's Vision: Advancing Diversity in Hospitality & Education Equity


TMCF's Vision: Advancing Diversity in Hospitality & Education Equity
During Women’s History Month 2024, Sands is highlighting women leaders who excel in their roles while championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Dr. N. Joyce Payne, the founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), is renowned for her dedication to dismantling barriers within the Black college community.
Sands has collaborated with TMCF, which celebrated its 35th anniversary last year, on Sands Cares programs aimed at encouraging Black college students to explore careers in hospitality, with a focus on fostering diversity within the industry. TMCF, through its scholarships, capacity-building efforts, and research projects, serves as a crucial resource in both K-12 and higher education.
Dr. Payne established TMCF in 1987, leveraging her extensive background in education and politics. Her career includes leadership roles such as executive director of the National Alliance for Public Trust and vice president of the Office for the Advancement of Public Black Colleges of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). Additionally, she contributed to President Jimmy Carter’s administration and taught at institutions like Federal City College and George Washington University.
As a recognized authority on women’s issues in higher education and workforce participation, Dr. Payne has authored numerous papers advocating for equality. Drawing from her diverse experiences, she shares insights on the needs of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), the evolution of DEI efforts, and progress towards a more inclusive society.
Dr. Payne's journey into education and advocacy stems from her admiration for her teachers during the era of segregation, who demonstrated unwavering commitment to education despite facing significant challenges. Inspired by these personal connections, she pursued a career in education to contribute to positive change and provide better resources for Black students, particularly within HBCUs.

“Believing that our communities deserve the same quality of resources that other institutions had, I felt the need to address some of the inequities,” she said. “But the lack of endowments at Black colleges had the greatest impact on my decision to explore ways to generate sustainable support. Activism has always been in my DNA. When I see a problem, I feel compelled to solve it. What’s the value of human knowledge and experience, if you don’t use it to improve the quality of life for those excluded from the mainstream of American society.”

Dr. Payne embarked on a journey to explore the purchasing power of Black communities, gathering research to demonstrate their significant contribution to corporate bottom lines. Armed with this data, she approached major corporations, urging them to reinvest in these communities by supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It was from this initiative that the idea for TMCF took root.
Reflecting on the inception of TMCF, Dr. Payne recalled securing initial contributions in 1987, enabling her to establish offices for her work. Momentum grew with the endorsement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, a pioneering figure in civil rights, whose name lent considerable weight to the organization's goals. Events were planned to further rally contributions, leading to the formal incorporation of TMCF in 1990.
Dr. Payne's dedication to education and civil rights, dating back to the founding of Cheyney University in 1837, underscores TMCF's mission. Beyond merely producing credentialed graduates, TMCF aims to nurture leaders committed to effecting positive change in society.
With over 35 years of progress, Dr. Payne reflects proudly on TMCF's achievements, having generated millions of dollars in funding and awarded over $400 million in scholarships, significantly impacting the lives of students from under-resourced backgrounds.
Looking ahead, Dr. Payne emphasizes the ongoing need for educational equity and diversity advancement. She highlights staggering disparities in funding for institutions serving Black students, motivating TMCF's relentless pursuit of change.
Regarding diversity, Dr. Payne stresses the importance of genuine inclusion, not mere tokenism. She envisions a future where diverse perspectives are actively embraced and incorporated into decision-making processes.
Dr. Payne envisions a transformative shift towards a more equitable and diverse society, where marginalized voices are not just represented but truly heard. Embracing diversity, she argues, is not just morally imperative but essential for corporate growth and innovation.
In conclusion, Dr. Payne's vision for TMCF extends beyond scholarships and funding; it encompasses a commitment to fostering inclusive environments where all individuals, regardless of background, can thrive and contribute meaningfully to society.
Why are corporate partnerships such as the one forged between Sands and TMCF significant?
Dr. Payne underscores the importance of African American representation in the hospitality industry, given its substantial economic impact. She emphasizes the necessity for greater visibility and influence within this sector and applauds Sands for their collaboration in realizing this goal. Through initiatives like hosting TMCF students at Sands facilities for hands-on experience and training in hospitality, Sands has demonstrated a commitment to nurturing talent within the community. Dr. Payne expresses satisfaction with the level of engagement observed and anticipates the cultivation of broader, enduring opportunities through continued partnership with Sands.
What is TMCF's vision for the future in terms of addressing disparities in education resources and opportunities?
Dr. Payne's optimism for TMCF and its member institutions remains steadfast and burgeoning. She envisions a future where concerted efforts are directed towards advancing public HBCUs, particularly those on the verge of attaining Research 1 status. Driven by the aspiration to equip these universities with the necessary resources and support, she aims to facilitate their transformation into hubs of academic excellence. This includes fostering environments conducive to groundbreaking research, cultivating Nobel laureates, and establishing robust graduate programs in emerging fields to spur growth and innovation.
Even decades after his passing, Dr. Payne continues to draw inspiration from the legacy of Justice Marshall.
“Justice Marshall often talked about the poverty of vision,” she said. “With the right vision, the right resources and the right minds at the table with respect to diversity, we can make a difference in the future. I am quite optimistic.”