Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
Tuskegee University has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation to specifically propel young minority male students into the technology sector. The grant is part of a collective $200 million investment by Verizon in broadening male minority representation in the tech industry workforce.
This grant will fuel the Verizon Innovative Learning program in Macon County and promote STEM education among minority male students. The program was first introduced in 2015 and works primarily with HBCUs and other institutions serving largely minority populations.
Dr. Olga Bolden-Tiller, head of the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will direct the program, and Dr. Hira Narang, head of the Department of Computer Science, will serve as the program’s assistant director.
“Verizon has launched this innovative learning program to address the disparity of technology skills and resources among minority youth,” Bolden-Tiller said. “Young students need to be provided the opportunity — despite present socioeconomic limitations — to understand and utilize technology,” she added.
Tuskegee launched the program with Verizon in March, and the university will continue the partnership until the end of June 2020. The three-week on-campus program, which involves teachers and students from six Macon County middle schools, will include an intensive introduction to the Verizon curriculum with hands on use of technology in Tuskegee’s computer engineering labs.
The program will help students learn how digital media and mobile technology can be utilized to create original solutions to the challenges within their own communities. In addition to learning best practices for next-generation technologies, students will also focus on concepts such as robotics, coding, augmented reality and 3-D printing.
“Along with these technical subjects, students will be challenged to engage in design thinking, innovative learning methods, and social entrepreneurship training,” Narang said. “Showing these students, the practical and real-world applications of technology will capture and keep their interest in technology, while affording them the best opportunity of understanding,” he added.
Students will be provided transportation and meals while on campus, and they will hear from special guest speakers about technology topics. Students will also be matched with a student mentor to help them along the way.
“Immersion of technology will be emphasized to the students during these three weeks, while the middle school teachers will receive a more in-depth understanding of the Verizon curriculum,” noted Narang.
Ultimately, Tuskegee University and Verizon hopes programs like this will help further diversify the technology sector.
“Minorities are especially underrepresented in the tech area,” Bolden-Tiller said. “More than ever, we have millions of jobs that require individuals who possess professional technology skills. Each year, more sophisticated tech tools are introduced into our society, yet we still have a lack of human workers to manage and navigate these tools,” she mentioned.
Tuskegee University shares in Verizon’s mission to improve access to and an understanding of technology to millions of kids. Currently, there are 200 male students registered for the program with the majority of the students coming from the Black Belt region and other rural areas in Alabama.
“At the end of the program, students are expected to have created their own original technology product, and teachers will be asked to continuously incorporate the Verizon curricula into their regular lesson plans,” Narang said. “Tuskegee will also continue to do its part and continuously monitor the students’ progress and regularly host them on campus to follow up and reinforce key principles.”
To learn more about the partnership between Tuskegee University and Verizon, click here.
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