With LJFF’s first class of Akron I PROMISE Network students now in eighth grade, the I PROMISE Institute is currently conducting research on resources and support programs around the country to determine the best tactics and procedures to have in place by the time its students arrive on The University of Akron campus in 2021. LJFF has established a governing board of academics from across the country to help oversee this research that will guide the IPI’s curriculum and interventions as it gets to the root of urban youth retention. Officially titled the “I PROMISE Institute Bureau,” the Bureau’s founding members include:
Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBanc – Dr. Hephner LaBanc is the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Mississippi where she provides leadership and direction for all aspects of the Division of Student Affairs while also serving as a faculty member in the higher education program in the department of leadership and counselor education. Dr. Hephner LaBanc earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Akron, her master’s degree in higher education administration and student personnel at Kent State University, and her doctoral degree at Northern Illinois University in adult and higher education.
Prior to Ole Miss, Dr. Hephner LaBanc served Northern Illinois University as their associate vice president in the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management as well as the assistant vice president for planning and operations. A respected scholar and consultant in the field of campus crisis management, her work and research also focuses on preparation of student affairs professionals and transition issues for graduate students.
Paul A. Herold – After more than 36 years of professional service at The University of Akron, Paul Herold recently retired from UA as special assistant to the president and secretary of the board of trustees. Since 2010, Herold was involved in researching, drafting and implementing board- and institutional-level policies and policy updates. From 1996 through 2009, he oversaw the university’s communication, public relations and marketing efforts and served on the University’s leadership team. He also represented UA to a variety of professional and community constituencies during his tenure. Herold earned both his master’s degree in higher education and bachelor’s degree in communication from The University of Akron. He will begin conducting research, site visits and other critical groundwork for the IPI immediately.
Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. – As the president of Radford University in Virginia, Dr. Brian Hemphill is a champion for positive change and a true advocate of shared governance. President Hemphill represents Radford on the national scale with active involvement in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), including the Committee on Policies and Purpose, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Hemphill earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration and policy studies from the University of Iowa, a Master of Science degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University of Science and Technology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in organizational communication from Saint Augustine’s University. 
Hemphill is also a published author with his writings covering topics related to gun violence and threat preparedness on college campuses; emerging financial concerns affecting the collegiate sphere; STEM and economic-related issues pertaining to education; and a myriad of additional scholarly perspectives pertinent to the higher education environment.
 “If we want to be ready for our students when they get to campus in a few short years, the work needs to start now,” said Michele Campbell, Executive Director of the LeBron James Family Foundation. “For many of our kids, they are the first in their families to attend college, so we want to create a familiar, encouraging environment where they feel safe and supported. We believe we have the academics and the experts in place to ensure the I PROMISE Institute will be a valuable and impactful resource for our students.”
In the near term, the I PROMISE Institute will be a home-base for all future high school Akron I PROMISE Network students, acclimating them to life on a college campus while offering programming for students, parents and their entire families about the logistics and other learnings of the college experience. The creation of the I PROMISE Institute is being funded in part by Sprite®, which has worked with LeBron James since 2003. 
LJFF’s Wheels for Education and Akron I PROMISE Network programs were created as a way to raise graduation rates in Akron over the long term. With the addition of the I PROMISE Institute, that commitment continues through college graduation rates for LJFF’s inner-city students at The University of Akron. 
For more information on the LeBron James Family Foundation and its commitment to helping its students reach their dreams through higher education, visit www.lebronjamesfamilyfoundation.org •