Kirchner Fellowship Announces 2022-23 HBCU Cohort

Jacksonville FL – July 20, 2022, – The Kirchner Fellowship, an initiative of the Kirchner Impact Foundation, today announced, after a successful first year, the selection of fellows for the second year of the HBCU program. In a pioneering effort to develop the next generation of venture capital allocators in food and agriculture, the program aims to help address the lack of diversity within the VC sector.

See below for the bios of the 2022-2023 Kirchner HBCU Fellows:

Devotha Mwazembe is pursuing a Ph.D. in Integrative Biosciences at Tuskegee University. Her research focuses on crop production, soil science, crop modeling decision tools, climate change, and sustainability. She earned a Master of Science in Environmental Sciences from Tuskegee University and a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from the Sokoine University of Agriculture.

Taylor Weekes is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance at Howard University. She is currently working as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst at Goldman Sachs in the Financial Institutions Group. Taylor has previously interned at PwC and the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

Ayodeji Akande is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration in Computer Information Systems at Howard University. Ayodeji currently serves as the President of the Howard University Investment Group and Chief of Staff of the Howard University Nigerian Student Organization. He previously worked at PJT Partners as an Investment Banking Analyst in the Strategic Advisory Group.

The Fellows will be “impact venture capitalists” for an academic year, investing real money in a real company, while remaining full-time students at their respective universities. As the program commences, the HBCU Cohort will define its investment mandate with an overarching theme of   investing in an early-stage company in the agriculture and food ecosystem.

“We are eager to build on our learnings from the inaugural cohort and dive into our second year of the HBCU program,” stated Hattie Brown, Co-Manager of Kirchner Impact Foundation. “This group of fellows is incredibly talented and it will be an exciting journey to see their potential translate into a deep understanding of the investment process, and thoughtful deployment of investment capital.”

“Coming from an agricultural family, I understand the importance of investing in food security, particularly in disenfranchised communities,” commented Fellow Taylor Weekes. “Through this fellowship, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the venture capital landscape, while making a direct impact on communities that can benefit from this investment.”

“I wanted to be part of the Kirchner Fellowship for the opportunity to share my skills, knowledge and experience to help drive scientific-based solutions to ensure food security and better livelihoods,” added Fellow Devotha Mwazembe.

“I joined the Kirchner HBCU Fellows program because it will allow me to learn and put my skills into investing in companies that are making a difference in food and agriculture,” commented Fellow Ayodeji Akande. “I look forward to working with the talented group of students and benefiting from the hands-on learning experience.”

The Kirchner Fellowship is made possible through the support of the Kirchner Group, a leading values-based traditional merchant bank, as well as other partners, donor organizations and individual donors.


Kirchner Fellowship
The mission of the Kirchner Fellowship is to strengthen impact investing ecosystems in areas underserved by capital markets through training and empowering a diverse next generation of investors to allocate equity investments into early-stage companies. Through the use of a “real world, real time, real money” model, the program has proven that it is possible for newly-formed investment teams to become effective capital allocators in a matter of months.

The Kirchner Fellowship is an initiative of The Kirchner Impact Foundation (501 (c) (3)) one of the “returning arms” of Kirchner Group, that focuses on harnessing the positive power of enterprise to make a difference in addressing some of the most important issues of today.

Hattie Brown | Co-Manager, Kirchner Impact Foundation |

Kirchner Group
Kirchner Group was founded in 1985 as a boutique firm and today operates various subsidiaries, providing advisory services (M&A, assessments, diligence) and operational support (interim management, workouts, turnarounds) as well as asset management (dedicated, portfolio optimization) – all leveraging a proprietary approach that dovetails domain and process expertise.

Throughout the decades Kirchner Group has been internationally recognized for its unique business model centered around creating value while promoting values: “earning while returning”. The firm has also established a reputation for building and rebuilding important business and social paradigms based on its deep entrepreneurial orientation.

Kirchner Group’s clients and partners include early stage to mid-market companies, venture capital and private equity firms as well as family offices and some of the world’s largest insurance companies, commercial banks and institutional investors.

Blair Kirchner | Managing Director |