Grant Bennett got the idea to attend Morehouse College not from a parent, alumnus, or high school teacher but from rapper J. Cole. Both Bennett and J. Cole grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., and, when he was young, Bennett had the chance to appear in a J. Cole video.
“A few years later I got off work washing dishes and ran into him at a local restaurant,” Bennett said. “During our conversation he mentioned how much he liked visiting Morehouse and encouraged me to apply. He talked about how he had had an opportunity to sit in on Dr. David Wall Rice’s class and had a great time.
“After that, Morehouse was on my radar. I did my research and saw the men who came before and thought that might be the place for me.”
On Dec. 13, Bennett will join the Class of 2020 for Morehouse College's online Commencement on YouTube. He will graduate cum laude with a degree in psychology.
In September, he began working virtually as a Human Resources associate with Google, from his North Carolina hometown. (Bennett interned at Google during the summer of 2019 on the diversity, equity, and inclusion team.) He is also taking classes at Columbia University, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in Human Capital Management.
Bennett’s Atlanta relatives and one of his AP teachers supported his interest in applying to Morehouse College. During his senior year of high school the standout athlete received both baseball and academic scholarships from the College. Bennett didn’t fully make up his mind, though, until Admitted Students Weekend when he visited the campus for the first time. “I met Dr. David Wall Rice that weekend, and I just fell in love with Morehouse,” Bennett remembered. “The rest is history.”
When he arrived on campus as a freshman, however, Bennett felt unsure about what to study at the historic school. So he asked around about the class that J. Cole had attended years before. He learned that it had been a psychology class, and Rice was then the department chair. So Bennett majored in psychology and eventually became interested in the field of leadership with a moral focus.
“I want to work in the social impact space,” he explained recently. “Leaders of companies, influencers, athletes, artists—I’d love to be like an executive coach or a leadership development guru helping people.”
Bennett had actually been interested in working in the leadership field before attending Morehouse because of some transformative experiences he’d had with mentors. One of his most influential mentoring groups was Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., which is dedicated to developing leaders, promoting brotherhood and academic excellence, and providing service and advocacy to communities.
“The whole unspoken mission at Morehouse is paying it forward,” Bennett noted, “and when I came in, the members of Alpha Phi Alpha just took me in. Some key guys transformed my entire life and put me into a space I wouldn’t have gotten in without them.”
During his years at Morehouse, Bennett rewarded the mentors who’d placed their faith in him. He played three years on the Maroon Tigers baseball team (taking his junior year off), and was leading the conference in home runs before the season ended early in March 2020 because of COVID-19. He became a Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Scholar, was presented with the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership Social Justice and Leadership Innovation Award, and was named a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar.
Bennett also studied abroad as part of the Liberia West Africa Fellowship Program and completed several impressive internships, such as Vanderbilt University’s Explorations in Diversifying Engineering Faculty Initiative, and the University of California at Berkeley’s Diversity in Doctoral Education and Scholarship Fellowship.
Bennett singles out his work with the Morehouse initiative Get on the Bus, however, with being integral to his success. “Get on the Bus was one of the most influential experiences that I participated in at Morehouse,” he said of theinitiative, designed to develop high school students of color as leaders and to help them recognize the benefits of a college education. “I was able to work on trips to Washington D.C., New York, and New Orleans, connecting students from every aspect of campus life and forcing us to work together to spread the mission of Morehouse.
“This experience is one of the most humbling and fulfilling experiences that Morehouse has to offer.”
Bennett also credits David Wall Rice—now an associate professor of psychology at Morehouse and principal investigator for the Identity Orchestration Research Lab—as being instrumental in his academic success and personal development. “He introduced me to academic research as a freshman, which set me up for future research opportunities down the line,” Bennett explained. “And he plugged me in many opportunities and guided me through some of the toughest college moments.”
After completing his studies last spring and summer, Bennett worked on building a nonprofit he founded: the Two-Six Project, an incubator for leadership in Fayetteville, N.C., that focuses on marginalized youth.
He is now getting (virtual) corporate experience at Google while he stays on track with his education, taking classes part time, on academic scholarship, at Columbia.
(Dr. David Wall Rice) introduced me to academic research as a freshman, which set me up for future research opportunities down the line. And he plugged me in many opportunities and guided me through some of the toughest college moments.Grant Bennett, Class of 2020