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Apple to Donate Nearly $50 Million to HBCUs to Spur STEM

Shantella Y. Sherman, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper | 3/30/2015, 10:22 a.m.
Some of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) will soon benefit from a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to increase ...
Students supported by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which focuses on public, historically black colleges and universities. Photo courtesy of Apple

Some of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) will soon benefit from a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to increase the pipeline of women, minorities, and veterans in the technology industry. Fortune Magazine reports Apple’s gift of nearly $50 million will go to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, in benefit to 47 public HBCUs. The funds will provide scholarships to students majoring in computer science, training for students and faculty, and establish a paid internship program for hiring promising HBCU students at Apple.

Apple’s human resources chief Denise Young Smith said the company is partnering with several non-profit organizations to create opportunities for minority candidates to get their first job at Apple. “There is a tremendous upside to [creating opportunities] and we are dogged about the fact that we can’t innovate without being diverse and inclusive,” said Young Smith.

Apple’s funding is one of the largest gifts to any HBCU advocacy organization, and will be support the most comprehensive training partnership ever conceived in benefit to Black colleges. “Historically, other organizations have provided scholarship dollars or focused on whatever area matters most to them,” said Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “People are at Harvard and MIT looking for their students, but Apple said, there are some really talented individuals at these [HBCU] schools.”

Apple’s partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a non-profit that supports students enrolled in public HBCUs, signals direct action in securing talented minority engineers, according to Paul Dorsey, a retired HBCU science instructor. “Black colleges have an abundance of talented and disciplined students who have the capacity to take the world by storm. In many instances though, these students’ careers are impacted by the limited hiring practices of major corporations,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey also pointed to the Ayers desegregation case in Mississippi and a similar battle in Maryland over discriminatory funding practices at land-grant colleges. The Apple money, he suggests, would help science and engineering programs at HBCUs already underfunded by discriminatory state policies. “When the state is not supporting high-demand degree programs through funding, it is important that outside philanthropy step in. Otherwise, the country ends up with the very lack of diversity prevalent in math, science, engineering and technology that we are witnessing now. Apple is trendsetting in its efforts to foster minority development and growth,” Dorsey said.