EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout February, in celebration of Black History Month, our “A Day in the Life” series highlights members of 2U’s Black Engagement Network (BNet) who support the programs of our partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
With her extensive background in therapy and social work, Ebony Middleton’s gravitational pull to 2U can be traced back to her time helping young men and women re-enter their communities after leaving the criminal justice system.
“Early on in my career, I recognized that the women and men I served often had concerns centered around access to education,” Ebony says. “There was one particular young man I worked with who had been exceptional throughout the program. As he prepared to return home, he asked me something really powerful: How can I keep growing, learning, and changing when I'm returning back to a community and public school system that's under-resourced and under-supported?”
While Ebony was able to develop a plan to address this young man’s specific concerns and support his success, his question continued to linger. “There were many days when I thought about him and the promise he showed—how he recognized the importance of a high-quality education and community support,” she says. “I began wondering how I could help address the need to expand access to education on a broader scale. I soon learned there was a company already committed to that mission: 2U. I first joined the company as an associate in 2014, and as I’ve progressed, that young man’s question continues to inspire my work by challenging me to consider how to address educational access for others in a variety of contexts.”
Now a director of program management at 2U, Ebony works in partnership with two academic powerhouses. One is Morehouse College, which has a rich history of being the only educational institution in the U.S. dedicated to empowering and developing Black men. In her role, Ebony leads the development and implementation of Morehouse’s first online undergraduate degree offering, a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.
For Black History Month, BNet connected with Ebony to learn more about her unique role in supporting this distinguished HBCU, the opportunities she sees Morehouse Online offering learners, and how being a member of BNet informs and inspires her daily work.
Ebony (second from left) with other members of the Morehouse Online team, joined by President of Morehouse College, Dr. David Thomas (in the maroon Morehouse letter jacket)
Between your social work expertise and clear passion for education, 2U’s Morehouse partnership seems like the perfect fit for you, Ebony! How do you infuse all of your talents into your daily work?
My day is often inspired by the needs of Morehouse leadership and the internal and external cross-functional teams I support, which means no two days are ever quite the same. Each week, I have the privilege of supporting Morehouse’s mission by incorporating my professional passions for collaborative problem solving, educational equity, and innovation—along with my experience as a Black woman who has a personal commitment to the advancement and promotion of Black excellence on a global scale.
We love that you’re bringing all aspects of yourself into your role. That personal connection surely elevates everything you do at 2U. What excites you most about working on the Morehouse mission—and what unique opportunities do you see the program offering learners?
The most exciting part is the daily realization that I’m working on a historic partnership that’s having a direct impact on closing the educational gap for Black men. In the U.S., millions of Black men have college credits but, for one reason or another, never completed their degree. Morehouse Online is a unique opportunity for these adult learners, as it is flexible, affordable, and purposefully designed to provide a pathway to support Black men in degree completion.
Wow, this program can truly help open doors for so many Black men. Just thinking about the possibilities is so exciting. In your work so far on the program, is there a particular lesson you’ve learned that stands out?
I’ve learned how important and critical it is to continue looking for ways to offer these kinds of programs at other HBCUs. I’m hopeful there will be a continued commitment to, and investment in, expanding educational access for learners of color at other institutions.
Carving out more pathways to high-quality education for all kinds of learners continues to be a huge priority for 2U. In your role, we bet you bear witness to so many inspiring moments. What’s been some of the most memorable so far?
The most inspiring moments have been the students who’ve shared how meaningful this program has been to them. There are so many reasons why students start degrees but do not complete them, and that can sometimes produce a significant amount of shame, disappointment, and grief over time. I’ve been so moved by students sharing how Morehouse Online has given them the opportunity to close that chapter and, in exchange, be embraced by the Morehouse brotherhood.
Ebony graduating from Christopher Newport University, where she was a member of the Nu Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first intercollegiate historically African American sorority
Just chills, Ebony. You hit the nail on the head in terms of how important that sense of community and belonging is to a person’s education. Speaking of community, how does your membership in BNet help guide your work at 2U?
The purpose of BNet is to offer African American and Black employees, along with allies, a forum for networking, professional development, and belonging; therefore my membership and involvement in the network continuously informs my work at 2U. It’s through this community, support system, and programming that I’ve been afforded a space to discuss, consider, and continue to learn from other BNet members how I can best support Morehouse College, Morehouse Online, and student success.
BNet definitely offers that safe space to share who you are, raise each other up, and shine brighter both individually and collectively. “Together, We Move” is actually our theme this year, which kicks off with Black History Month. How is this observance personally meaningful for you?
Black History Month provides our country an opportunity to be intentional in its observation of the resilience and contributions of Black culture; however, I think it’s important to acknowledge that every month is Black History Month. Growing up, my parents encouraged me to maintain that perspective and demonstrate it in my personal life and professional work. As a result, each day I strive to demonstrate reverence for the past, present, and future of the Black and African American experience.
Yes, Ebony, there’s so much value in keeping our minds and hearts in all three of these places. What’s some other important wisdom you’d share with individuals interested in joining 2U to support HBCUs, expand access to high-quality education, and unlock human potential?
There are so many opportunities at the company where you can use your education and unique experiences to support and advance the mission of HBCUs. In these programs at 2U, we especially value striving for excellence, a commitment to the advancement and preservation of the Black experience, and challenging the status quo in order to create a more innovative and personal educational experience for students. I hope you’ll consider working with us!
Meet more BNet members: an HBCU implementation manager, a graphic designer, a career services curriculum engineer, a VP and general manager, and a curriculum manager who’s now the global chair of BNet.
Learn more about us.
At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help partners thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.