Mailchimp giving Clayton State University $1 million in three-year deal

Atlanta-based email marketing company Mailchimp is giving Clayton State University $1 million for a school program that gives students hands-on training in tech.

The funding supports Launchpad, a program in the university’s College of Information & Mathematical Sciences. It increases Mailchimp’s prior partnership with Clayton State, which received $300,000 from the company for Launchpad in 2018.

“Mailchimp has been engaged with Clayton State basically for a long time,” said Sheldon Cummings, the company’s COO and former chief diversity and inclusion officer of Intuit, which bought Mailchimp earlier this year. “And now with the Intuit acquisition of Mailchimp, this allows us to literally triple down onto our commitment.”

The Mailchimp funding comes as south metro Atlanta has struggled to attract the kind of tech and education investment seen in the city and its northern suburbs. While incubators to develop the next creator of Google or Instagram are abundant north of I-20, there is little infrastructure to boost tech talent south of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“We are passionate about supporting southside tech talent and showcasing the access and hands-on training we can bring,” Cummings said in a phone interview.

Interim Clayton State President Kerry Heyward said programs such as Launchpad are critical for Georgia’s colleges and universities.

“To provide such exemplary opportunities for students is essential for their future success in the workforce and in life,” Heyward said in a release about the Mailchimp funding.

That investment has paid off for students. In addition to the 10 students who have either gotten a job with Mailchimp or interned there since 2018, Launchpad graduates have found employment at ADP, Home Depot, Greenlight, General Motors, Inspire Brands, Norfolk Southern and other businesses, Mailchimp said.

Michelle Melton, who got a job at Mailchimp through her work with Launchpad, said she knew tech was the right fit for her after signing up for the program and learning getting to understand how artificial intelligence works.

A metro Atlanta native, Melton moved home from Los Angeles in 2015 to be near aging grandparents. In L.A., she had a career in corporate finance for Paramount Pictures and Comcast-owned NBC Universal. She worked remotely for the studios until 2018, when she decided to return to school at Clayton State and followed her passion for tech.

“I’ve always had an interest in technology,” she said. “I’ve always loved everything the tech space was about. I loved the innovation, the creativity.”

At Launchpad, she worked directly with Mailchimp on projects that allowed her to apply what she learned in class to real-life scenarios.

“It was a great experience in terms of getting these individualized lectures from industry professionals,” she said in an interview.