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University of Phoenix President Chris Lynne and Jobs for the Future (JFF) Lucy Fernandez join “It Happens at STN” discussing partnership on professional social capital for Black learners and workers

Panel discussion on set at STN with Robin Reed, Monica Villalobos, Chris Lynne, Lucy Fernandez, and Eric Sperling Community Collaborative panel discussion of "It Happens at STN" with (l to r) Robin Reed, Monica Villalobos, Chris Lynne, Lucy Fernandez, and Eric Sperling

By Sharla Hooper

Community Collaborative segment of STN show features Lynne and Fernandez discussing social capital and partnership working to address inequities

University of Phoenix President Chris Lynne and Lucy Fernandez, Manager, Solutions Design & Delivery at Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit driving transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems, were featured guests of “It Happens at STN” in the new season of the show produced by STN, the Social Television Network, in Phoenix, Arizona. Lynne and Fernandez joined the show with hosts Monica Villalobos, Chief Executive Officer, Arizona Hispanic Chamber, Robin Reed, Chief Executive Officer, Black Chamber of Arizona, and Eric Sperling, Chief Executive Officer, STN, to discuss social capital strategies and the partnership of the University of Phoenix and JFF’s Center for Racial Economic Equity to create an action-based framework that outlines strategies for colleges and employers to support career advancement for Black learners and workers by building professional social capital.

“We learned from our 2021 Career Optimism Index® study that half of American workers don’t have an advocate in their professional life,” states Lynne. “Professional social capital opens doors and is immensely important to busy, working adult learners like our students to be successful in their careers and goals. As a career-focused university, our work with JFF is a natural fit for our mission. The framework allows us to take what we do well and put initiatives into place that build on those successes, for our students and our employees.”

STN creates content that brings together community leaders to share their leadership philosophies and actionable solutions to make a difference. Aired in July, Episode 10 of the show, “It Happens at STN,” featured the panel discussion on professional social capital in “The Community Collaborative” segment, an ongoing series which highlights actions in motion to cultivate diversity and inclusion throughout state and local communities.  

Professional social capital refers to the resources that arise from a person’s network of relationships that can help mobilize and advance education and career goals and is a crucial element in establishing racial economic equity in the workforce. With funding from University of Phoenix, JFF developed an actionable framework that companies, institutions and organizations can adopt and apply as a sustainable method of social capital building for their workforce and students.

“When we started this research, so many folks were not sure how to define professional social capital, and often it was reduced to networking, which puts the burden on the learners and workers themselves,” Fernandez said. “The framework offers meaningful guidance for companies and higher education institutions to take steps in becoming a partner to their learners and workers, in defining, measuring, and building social capital.”

The findings of the University of Phoenix Career Institute® 2021 Career Optimism Index® study informed the initial collaboration, and the subsequent annual studies conducted in 2022 and 2023 produced additional details to inform the framework development. The partnership began by launching an in-depth market scan conducted in 2022, analyzing existing strategies for the development of professional social capital that are being implemented by community-based organizations, postsecondary institutions, non-profits, and employers. 

The complete episode is available here. Learn more about STN here.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit