When, just before graduation, Aimée Eubanks Davis declared she wanted to join Teach For America, her mother despaired, saying that this choice would “ruin her life.” While Davis’ first year as a sixth-grade teacher in New Orleans was a challenge, it didn’t ruin her life — it brought it into focus.
Davis has spent her career in education, first in classrooms, then in leadership for the Chicago-based Teach For America. She spent nearly a decade as the organization’s chief people officer, working to create a workplace that could attract and retain top talent — both within the ranks of its 2,000 full-time staff members and within its 1,300-person seasonal workforce. Focusing on diversity and inclusion as a central mission, Davis built an organizational culture that fostered and retained top talent from a wide variety of backgrounds. During her tenure as chief people officer, Teach For America made multiple appearances on Fortune magazine’s list of best places to work.
But it was her access to Teach For America’s data on college graduates, paired with seeing the outcomes of her students back in New Orleans, that got Davis thinking about what else needed fixing in our education-to-employment system. Davis was seeing her former pupils graduate with degrees but then end up in jobs they were vastly overqualified for.
Nationwide, about 700,000 low-income or disadvantaged college students graduate from universities each year. But only 390,000 of those graduates will find roles that align with their experience and expertise or will enter graduate school. Networking is often crucial to getting your first post-college job. However, first-generation and disadvantaged college students often don’t have robust networks in the industries they hope to join.
In 2013, Davis decided to use her chief-people-officer skills and address this issue. She founded Braven, a nonprofit organization focused on aiding the transition from college to professional success.
Braven partners with universities to help students land their first job, using coaching and mentoring and offering a peer cohort that can act as a network. In 2019, Davis’ work of growing Braven resulted in her being named an Obama Foundation Fellow. In 2021, Davis was named a Luminary by the 1954 Project, an organization that celebrates Black leaders who exemplify excellence in education. She is also a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Underscoring Davis’ ability to foster talent wherever she goes, Forbes named Braven as one of the best startup employers in America in 2022.
Class Year: 1995