Alumna Kia Jarmon Sets an Example of Black Bruin Excellence

July 13, 2023 | by Jasmine Simmons

Nashville native and 2006 alumna Kia Jarmon knew she wanted to attend Belmont upon visiting campus in her junior year of high school.  

“Being on campus was critical to my wanting to go to Belmont,” Jarmon said. “At the time, Belmont had a program for juniors to come on campus and learn more about the school by taking classes. You could look at a degree track and pop into classes, talk to the professors and then the Black Student Association (BSA) hosted us for an evening hang out.” 

The small classrooms, intentional recruiting, budding connections and a chance for a service-learning scholarship from Tennessee philanthropist and businessman Orrin Ingram sealed the deal for Jarmon who became one of Belmont’s first Ingram Achiever Scholars. Jarmon chose to study business with an emphasis in music business. Impactful mentors and campus involvements like becoming a BSA member helped Kia find belonging on campus as a student. 

“I built a good relationship with Dr. Susan West over time, and I had a great relationship with Pat (Patricia) Smedley, who was the director of financial aid then,” Jarmon said. “It’s critical for me to highlight those two black women as critical to my Belmont journey. Those two women made sure that I could matriculate through the school.” 

Smedley went as far as “adopting” Kia during her orientation process.  

“I was her child for the weekend,” she said. “My parents were working that orientation weekend and her child was also entering Belmont at the same time. She did everything with me a parent would for orientation.” 

Today, Kia leads a boutique communications and community engagement consultancy called MEPR Agency. She is the founder of the Nonprofit Equity Collaborative, and she serves as philanthropy advisor of Give Black, Give Back – the first effort from the Black Philanthropy Initiative in Middle Tennessee. Jarmon maintains ties with Belmont by serving on the leadership team of Belmont’s Black Alumni Network and regularly visiting campus to speak to students. She was chosen as the BSA 2022 Alumni of the Year.

“My encouragement is for students to remain present and celebratory,” she said. “I want them to stay present because it goes by so incredibly fast. You will look around and not remember classmates and not remember professors. Stay present so that you have those experiences like I had with really influential people, who I still see today.” 

Her time spent on campus and the connections she made at Belmont have come full circle in several ways. She has led training sessions with Ingram Industries, the namesake for the scholarship that helped finance her undergraduate education. Jarmon was a co-founder of the gospel choir BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ), although the name has changed it is still functioning and is led by the BSA. 

“What it means to be a Bruin for life for me, is that I always have a network of folks I can look to no matter where they are in the whole wide world, and we have this singular place that connected us,” she said. “For me, it’s about amplifying the Black alumni and the Black students. Although, I can look at any number of places and see a Belmont sticker or an alumni tag and there’s this community that we all are a part of. It’s a network, a community of folks, that are all connected to this one really great institution that is small but mighty. I love that about Belmont.” 

The 2006 graduate is proud to be a Bruin for Life and continues encouraging Black students on campus to find freedom and know “that they are not the only, though it may feel lonely sometimes.”

Jarmon is building a legacy of excellence as an entrepreneur, mentor and activist in the Nashville community. She has been recognized by the 100 Black Women of Nashville receiving the Susan Short JonesEmerging Leader award, the Minority Business Center as the Minority Business of the Year, the Middle Tennessee Diversity Forum as the “Woman to Watch,” and the Nashville BusinessJournal’s “Top Forty Under 40” and “Women of Influence,” among other accomplishments.