Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2008Kellogg School of Management
FeaturesBrand NewsFaculty NewsAlumni ProfilesClass NotesClub NewsArchivesContactKellogg Home
Making a world of difference
Big picture in focus
Sally Sharp Lehman '88
Joseph Hasten '78
James Reynolds '82
Jamee Field '04
Rick Waddell '79
Daniel Hayden '01
Melanie Chan '06
Horace Allen '04
Joseph Seminetta '05
David Pope '94
Cory Zanin '91
Well and good, but does it work?
Making a difference in the curriculum

Crunch time

Trials of a family business
Address Update
Alumni Home
Submit News
Internal Site
Northwestern University
Kellogg Search
Fighting against a 'permanent underclass', Horace Allen '04 moves others toward excellence

By Rebecca Lindell

"Why not me?" he would ask himself. "Why don't I have that car? Why can't I live in that house?"

Horace Allen '04  
Providing the tools: Entrepreneur Horace Allen has created a personal coaching program to build leadership and create success.  Photo © Shell Photographics  
Making a world of difference  

Allen decided he would never settle for a lower quality of life — and that he would work as hard as necessary to reach his goals. "I'm not a busing advocate, but I am an exposure advocate," Allen says today. "It's real hard to sell someone on how great a hot dog tastes after they've had Maine lobster."

That determination inspired Allen to transform himself from a marginal student to an honor-roll student in the Syracuse public school system. He continued on to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where he earned a spot on the dean's list and a bachelor's degree in economics.

Allen went on to IBM, rising through the ranks as a marketing representative and product manager, before leaving the company in 1993 to co-found Total Solutions Group in Minneapolis. Within seven years, the technology integration firm had annual sales of $40 million and was recognized as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in Minnesota.

Allen resolved to use the success of the firm to create opportunities for those who shared his underprivileged background. TSG already offered a for-profit training program during the week. Why not open up the classrooms during the weekend and offer free computer training to disadvantaged young people? Why not also teach them the skills to be truly successful?

Thus began TSG University, a program that offered not only computer training but comprehensive personal coaching too. Students learned how to set and track goals and received a thorough grounding in the elements of success.

The program attracted hundreds of applicants for its 10 to 14 slots per quarter. Graduates found well-paying jobs at TSG and technology firms throughout the Twin Cities area.

Allen's goal was to teach his students to fish, as the proverb goes, so that they would eat for a lifetime. He is a vocal critic of the old welfare model, which he says served only to cripple the motivation of those it purported to benefit.

"The message is, 'Because you are poor, here's a check," Allen declares. "But if you can make the same amount of money sitting at home and receiving a check as you would by working, what motivation do you have to advance yourself?

"It's nice to help the poor, but if your help doesn't create some sort of value, then it's worthless," Allen concludes. "Until folks realize that people who are underserved want and need to work, there will always be a permanent underclass."

Allen ultimately sold his stake in TSG, and in 2002 enrolled in the Executive MBA Program at the Kellogg School. He had just been appointed to the board of trustees at Hobart, and the president of the college asked Allen to help improve the graduation and employment prospects of its male minority students. While attending Kellogg, Allen created the prototype for what would become his new nonprofit organization, TeamPact.

The program provides one-on-one personal coaching for young African-American and Latino men, who are often the first in their families to attend college. Students also attend the "Success Curriculum," an intensive, year-long series of classes that focus on areas such as leadership, community building, ethics and entrepreneurship.

To date, the organization has achieved an 89 percent retention, graduation and employment rate among the students served at Hobart and several other schools and colleges.

Allen has incorporated many of the lessons he learned at Kellogg into the TeamPact program, not the least of which is an atmosphere of high expectations and success.

"What makes Kellogg so special is that it has a recipe for a systematic outcome," Allen says. "That's what we want to replicate at TeamPact. What we teach are the keys to being successful."

Allen hopes to expand the program to more schools and universities throughout the country. "I'm looking to make changes in the face of America, not just schools," Allen says. "I am trying to establish a movement toward excellence."

Current Top Headlines
View all current news
Subscribe to Kellogg News RSS
©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University