Imagine a job where you can directly see the impact you are having on thousands of young students. These aha moments can help generate the next generation of scientists, researchers, engineers and coders. Welcome to the world of Erica Henderson.
As Director of US Charitable Investments, Henderson facilitates funding to improve outcomes for those in underrepresented communities. Guided by three pillars of health for the people, health for the planet and innovators for the future, she is driven by the need to pay forward the kind of support and encouragement she received during her education.
“I am the first in my family to attend college and that was a tough road. I paid my way through college juggling two jobs, work, study and a full class load,” Henderson said. “But I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of so many educators. They instilled in me that I could succeed. One of my favorite quotes ‘To whom much is given, much is required’ speaks to my passion for working in our communities."
My role enables me to give back to the next generation of innovators who need that same support and encouragement to know they can also succeed.
The Rutgers University graduate focused on accounting and finance because it offered a secure career. Working in the insurance industry, she forged her way through pricing policies, regulatory analytics and government mandates. Eventually transitioning to non-profit engagement at GSK.
“I was fortunate to find mentors who opened my eyes to new opportunities,” said Henderson. “Because I had managed grants and worked in external engagement, working in charitable investments perfectly aligned to my professional and personal development goals.”
For decades, GSK has continued to build on the foundation of supporting communities where we work. There’s the GSK IMPACT Awards that provides unrestricted funding to small and medium-sized non-profit organizations improving the health of their communities outside of the physician office. Embedded in the neighborhoods they serve, these groups fill gaps in community health, education, employment, family and social support, and housing and nutrition.
“Our Science in the Summer™ program is approaching 37 years of providing free summer camps for tens of thousands of children every year,” Henderson said. “The hands-on experiments inspire future biologists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers. Last year our theme was Be a Biologist. This year it’s Be a Physicist. Students will learn about different types of energy and how that energy changes and moves. It’s bringing this education to life that allows students to create, build and test lessons they may only have read about. This is when you see the big smiles, excitement and enthusiasm. It’s a different way of engaging with them.”
Then there’s the Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective (PSEC) which was designed to create the next generation of students entering careers in STEM. GSK has committed $10 million to this initiative. PSEC brings together the school district, out-of-school providers, universities and colleges, employers and local government, all committed to closing the gap in underserved communities.
One of the PSEC grant recipients was the Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program. In collaboration with the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia, WINS was originally established to introduce young women of color to STEM careers. Then organizers realized they needed to evolve the program as the students navigated their first two years of college. Thus WINS III was born and is now providing much needed counsel to many who are the first in their family to attend college.
“Adding to our financial assistance are scores of devoted GSK staff who give of their time and energy to these non-profits,” said Henderson. “And it really runs the gamut. We have some collecting donated school supplies and others showing them how a manufacturing site works."
You’ll find us in classrooms, at robotic competitions and on college campuses. Helping people thrive is at the heart of what we do.
Henderson’s family and friends would say this giving, empathetic soul is exactly where she needs to be. No question the people on the receiving end of her efforts feel the same.
To read more about our work including the recent recipients of our GSK IMPACT awards and STEM equity grants, click here.