May 12 2017

Google and Howard University Partner to Bolster Diversity in Computer Science

The historically black university is opening a campus off-shoot in Silicon Valley.

While African-American and Latino workers make up 29 percent of the general workforce, they only make up 15 percent of those holding computing jobs and 12 percent of engineers, reports U.S. News and World Report.

Expanding on its efforts to recruit from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Google has created Howard West, a Howard University campus at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Bonita Stewart, Google’s vice president of global partnerships — and a Howard alum — writes in a blog post that Howard West will be the cornerstone of Google’s efforts to recruit African-American software engineers.

“With a physical space on campus where Howard students and Googlers can grow together, I can only imagine what innovation and creativity will come to light,” writes Stewart.

Beginning this summer, Stewart reports that rising juniors and seniors at Howard will be able to attend the Howard West campus for three months at a time. Google engineers and Howard faculty will serve as instructors.

“We envisioned this program with bold outcomes in mind — to advance a strategy that leverages Howard’s high-quality faculty and Google’s expertise, while also rallying the tech industry and other thought leaders around the importance of diversity in business and the communities they serve,” says Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, in the Google blog.

Opportunities and Mentorships Empower STEM Students

Though some HBCUs have been struggling in recent years from a lack of funding, NBC News reports that their students’ performance certainly hasn’t suffered.

“While HBCUs represent only three percent of all U.S. colleges, they produce 17 percent of African-Americans with bachelor’s degrees and 24 percent of all black scientists and engineers,” reads the article.

As a part of its outreach to these students, Stewart writes that Google developed a Google in Residence (GIR) program, where engineers from the tech giant serve as faculty at HBCUs like Howard.

“Through GIR we’ve learned a lot about the hurdles Black students face in acquiring full-time work in the tech industry,” writes Stewart. “The lack of exposure, access to mentors and role models are critical gaps that Howard West will solve.”

Alanna Walton, a junior computer science major at Howard who has interned at Google for the past two summers, tells USA Today that having the GIR teachers at Howard has been inspiring to her and her classmates.

“It makes them feel like they can do it, and it helps people stay in computer science,” says Walton in the article. “It makes them feel like: ‘It’s not a far-fetched idea for me to be at Google.’”

Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

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