Walmart, Sam’s Club host HBCU Student summit

This undated file photo shows Walmart's sign in front of its Bentonville headquarters.

Walmart and Sam's Club are hosting students from historically Black colleges for a weekend of professional development workshops, job interviews and networking at the first-ever HBCU Student Summit.

The 61 students representing 19 historically Black colleges and universities began arriving in Bentonville on Friday, said Morgan Vazquez, Walmart Inc.'s senior director and head of early career talent acquisition and programs.

Today and Sunday, the students will experience a full slate of activities designed to introduce them to Walmart and Sam's Club's commitment to diversity and the types of career opportunities they offer.

The weekend is planned around three components, Vazquez said.

The first is learning about Walmart and Sam's Club, she said -- "understanding the roles that we offer here, what we have for them, understanding our commitment to diversity, understanding the role we play when it comes to sustainability and corporate responsibility."

Second, the students will get to explore some of the culture and lifestyle of Northwest Arkansas. Vasquez said some early arrivals went to First Friday in Bentonville, and there would be outings over the weekend to places such as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Osage Park and Topgolf.

And the third component comprises frank, private conversations on topics such as what it's like to be a Black employee in a corporate setting and other topics that may be hard to talk about, Vazquez said.

Entwined with these events are 13 workshops, such as hearing alumni from historically black colleges and universities who now work at Walmart talk about their experience there. The students will also break into small groups to learn more about their specific interests, such as being a Walmart merchant or working in a supply chain.

Another aspect of the summit, though, is building relationships and networks, Vazquez said.

"We're typically one of many employers on campus at different events, as you can imagine," Vasquez said. "At a lot of historically Black colleges and universities, hundreds upon hundreds of employers partner with them, so when we're on campus, we're often one of many."

In brainstorming ways to showcase the region as well as Walmart and Sam's Club, Vasquez said, "we wanted to bring people to us, so we decided to host this summit to do exactly that."

All the students will be interviewed on Sunday, whether or not they are offered a job or even want a job at Walmart or Sam's Club.

"Ideally, they'll walk away and want to work at Walmart," Vazquez said.