NSU and Pharrell Team Up

NSU and Pharrell Team Up to present Economic Business ForumNSU and Pharrell Team Up To Present Economic Business Forum

Norfolk State University hosted a business economic forum Thursday, Oct. 28, held by entertainment entrepreneur Pharrell Williams. The mogul’s “The Elephant in the Room” was a business economic panel discussion aimed at helping move the region’s economic development forward. A group of financial investors told an audience of invited businesspeople, community leaders, alumni, students and faculty that the city of Norfolk and Norfolk State University are the types of communities and institutions they invest in. “NSU, an HBCU, is actually a gold mine,” Williams said. Referring to the financial investors, Pharrell added “They’re thinking about Historically Black Colleges and Universities--like you have no idea. I just wanted people to hear it.”

He explained the purpose of the forum this way: “I want business owners from my beloved 757 to hear from some of the world’s biggest financial institutions ... that their corporate agenda is about diversity, inclusivity and equity. So, this is them having a cheat sheet to see what will make these big financial institutions want to invest money, not only in our communities but our businesses.”

Pharrell estimated that together, the financial investors who appeared on the forum’s panels represented about $3 trillion. He later revised that figure

“They’re thinking about Historically Black Colleges and Universities--like you have no idea. I just wanted people to hear it.”

to $9 trillion during his commencement speech to NSU’s December 2021 graduating class.

“This was an amazing opportunity for Norfolk State University,” said NSU President Javaune Adams-Gaston.

Pharrell Williams reached out to NSU in need of a large outdoor space for his “Elephant in the Room” business forum and, according to Adams- Gaston, “we were able to provide it.”

In summing up the significance of the evening, President Adams-Gaston said, “What we were able to do tonight is what we really do at Norfolk State University, which is see the future. And we see the future in each of our students, and we see the future in our partnerships with these amazing businesses. So, we thank Pharrell Williams so very much for thinking enough of Norfolk State to do this.”

The following panelists participated in the event.

Nat Zilkha @KKR_Co
Shai Zereling @Brookfield
Derrick Weatherspoon @BlackRock
Felix Zhang @ares_management
Drew Ungvarsky @thisisgrow
Stephen Duval #EmpowermentIP
Latisha James @UrbanLeagueHR
Dr. Newby-Alexander and Eric Claville @Norfolkstate Felecia Hatcher @blackambitionpz
Pusha-T @heirwavemusic
Deirdre Love @TWPTHEMOVEMENT
Shu Nyatta @OpportunityFund
Ari S Untracht #Eldridge