Tips on Choosing the Right University from HBCU Alumni + Ford Executive Ivan Boykin

Ford’s dedication goes beyond supporting HBCUs, opening the scope for those to join them in their mission to build a better world. 

“Our success isn’t because we’re without weakness or because we are perfect in any way. But it’s really about the way we find our own unique strengths and develop them – I felt like that was done for me at A&T”, said Ford’s Retail Marketing & Yield Management Director, and North Carolina A&T graduate, Ivan Boykin. 


Q:                How has attending an HBCU had an impact on your career and life? 

Ivan:        The impact was huge. I loved my experience at North Carolina A&T State University. It was amazing to see so many talented and driven and young black people in one place motivating and pushing each other to excellence. My grandmother used to say iron sharpens iron, and this was so true. I also loved my instructors. They took a personal interest in my development. I was not just another student. My instructors knew me. They understood the reason why I was there, which was to reach my highest potential. 

Lastly, I would say preparation was a key component as well. I remember hearing Les Brown, a motivational speaker, say: “It’s always better to be prepared and not have an opportunity than to have an opportunity and not be prepared”. And I felt like A&T did a phenomenal job in preparing me. HBCUs have a way of connecting with students to help them in that space. It breeds this attitude of excellence, and excellence is a choice. So, for me, my trajectory was heavily influenced by the experiences that I gained at my HBCU. 

Q: Your daughter also now attends North Carolina A&T, right? 

Ivan: She added A&T to her list, I was ecstatic, and at the same time a little surprised. Honestly, because I never put pressure on her to specifically attend my school. That said, when she was going through her College selection journey and narrowed her scope to pick five schools to visit for consideration, I asked that two of them be HBCUs. I felt that it was important for them to be considered because the experiences gained at HBCUs are so important. So, we started doing campus visits, and she fell in love with A&T and made that decision on her own.

Q:                How did your career lead you to working at Ford? 

Ivan:        It’s interesting because my career after leaving A&T has only been with Ford, so I am one of the rare ones that have stayed with the same company and progressed as opposed to moving from one company to another. 

A&T was one of the HBCUs where Ford specifically recruited for marketing. I asked the Dean of Student Affairs, to help me connect with the recruiters because the interview slots were filled. So, she asked the interviewers if they would do one additional interview and promised it would be worth their time. So, I’ve always been grateful for that help because that interview led me to a series of other interviews which led me to being hired by Ford. And I’ve been here ever since, so it worked out well.

Q:                What does your role as Director of US Retail Marketing and Yield Management include?

Ivan:        My organization is chiefly responsible for overseeing the retail marketing activities used to create demand and promote sales of our Ford and Lincoln vehicles across the U.S. through our independently owned and operated Dealer Network. In fact, the Rainbow Push survey and our own CEO, Jim Farley, recently highlighted several major improvements, particularly around Black-owned dealerships. Also, we partner with our fixed marketing team, developing campaigns, building brand awareness, analyzing trends in the industry, and coming up with strategies to profitably grow our business.

Q: What advice would you give to those deciding on which college to attend?

Ivan: Your major is one of the first things to consider. If you decide to study engineering versus business, you may choose one school over another depending upon the major. Academic support and career placement are important because they really supplement whatever major you select, and that’s what’s helping you move to the next phase once you get out of school. 

I like the fact that the instructors knew me specifically, as opposed to having too large of a class where they can’t really get a chance to know the students. So, to me class size is important. Lastly, I would say campus life and finding the right fit because sometimes that is so important for your overarching experience.

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