HBCU Chess Spotlight: Alan Cowan

Alan Cowan was co-valedictorian of Morehouse College’s 2023 graduating class. He kindled an intense interest in finance and now works in venture capital for Mosaic General Partnership in San Francisco. Apart from his academic achievements, he executed one of the most potentially impactful ideas in American chess. In 2020, Cowan and Spelman student Shaniah Francis created The Black Odyssey, which extols the value of critical thought and career development in students attending historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Alan Cowan, 2023 Morehouse College Alumnus. Photo by Melinda Matthews/U.S. Chess
Alan Cowan, 2023 Morehouse College Alumnus
Photo by Melinda Matthews/U.S. Chess

Part of their design was to infuse chess into the equation. HBCUs like Hampton and Florida A&M have had chess as part of their curricula, but this initiative sought to create a network of activity at 100+ HBCUs. One of the networking activities came from bringing HBCUs together for an event. Securing mentorship from Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, they organized the 1st HBCU Chess Classic at Morris Brown College. This idea not only creates a networking point but also puts into motion other activities, such as career opportunities and sponsorships.

There were some high-flying students at the HBCU Chess Classic.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Research has shown that participating in mental activities like chess has tremendous value-added benefits for improving academics. It also helps the U.S. Chess Federation reach an untapped market of Black collegiate chess players. The Chess Drum discussed the 2nd HBCU Chess Classic with Cowan and some of the ideas moving forward.

Video interview courtesy of The Black Odyssey
Editing by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

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