President’s Blog: CCS Partners with Pensole Design Academy to open Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design

November 16, 2021
Representatives from CCS, PENSOLE, the Lewis Family and the Gilbert Family Foundation

As many of you already know, we made a historic announcement on Tuesday, October 12 in coordination with PENSOLE Design Academy of Portland, Oregon. 

If you didn’t hear, let me get you up to speed on what happened that Tuesday as we gathered in front of Lewis College of Business’s original Detroit location – which happens to be CCS’s current Admissions and Administration Building on Ferry Street. 

Together with Dr. Violet Ponders, granddaughter of Dr. Violet T. Lewis; Jennifer Gilbert of the Gilbert Family Foundation; George Armstrong of Target Corporation; and Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallett of the City of Detroit, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards of PENSOLE announced that PENSOLE would be moving to Detroit in 2022 and partnering with CCS to re-open Lewis College of Business as Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC). If successful, this will be the first-ever Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to reopen in the United States. 

Dr. Ponders spoke of how the re-opened and re-imagined college would be a testament to her grandmother’s legacy. The Gilbert Family Foundation and Target Corporation pledged gifts to support the reopened HBCU. Deputy Mayor Mallett welcomed PENSOLE to Detroit and reminded everyone of the strong legacy of black-owned business and leadership in Midtown Detroit, especially right here on Ferry Street. To learn more about the Pensole Lewis College of Business announcement, please take a look at our news story.

Since then, HB 5447 and 5448 have been introduced in the Michigan State House to set out the process for reopening Lewis College of Business. We look forward to sharing more information as the process for reopening the college unfolds. PENSOLE will be operating from CCS’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education until the permanent home for Pensole Lewis in Detroit is selected and developed. Enrollment for PENSOLE programs is expected to open in December of this year.

CCS’s partnership with PENSOLE Design Academy is driven by our strong commitment to develop diverse creative talent and long-standing commitment to the City of Detroit. Together, CCS and PENSOLE will create a new resource to support the aspirations of Detroiters. The fact that PENSOLE chose CCS, Detroit and the Lewis College of Business is a testament to CCS’s robust alumni network of minority footwear designers, Detroit’s design legacy, and the impact of this historical HBCU on Detroit. 

I am personally familiar with the excellent work of PENSOLE from my time in Portland OR and the partnerships that I developed with Dr. Edwards there. PENSOLE is known for being a pipeline for talent directly to top employers in footwear and other design fields. I am so thrilled about what this partnership means for enhancing the opportunities for our current and future students.  It supports our strategic priorities of developing career pathways for all of our students, increasing experiential learning opportunities, and growing our industry relationships. 

Even more importantly, I am excited about the role that this partnership will play in advancing CCS’s strides towards a more inclusive and diverse campus, another key strategic priority. Contrary to any assumptions some might have about private art and design colleges, 38% of CCS students are non-white and 34% qualify for Pell grants, a federal program for students with high financial need. Since 2020, CCS’s Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion has undertaken several initiatives to foster an even more welcoming and supportive environment on campus for  all of our students, faculty, and staff. Many CCS departments and programs have centered equity and inclusion as core to their missions, including Community Arts Partnership, Design Core Detroit, and Kresge Arts in Detroit. I do not take lightly the significance of hosting an HBCU on CCS’s campus and as part of CCS’s community. 

I am looking forward to seeing this vision realized and am so pleased that CCS could be a part of it. Please continue to check CCS news for updates as our partnership with PENSOLE develops.