HBCUs Join Silicon Valley Tech Companies for UNCF’s Fourth Annual HBCU ICE Summit

UNCF Conference Nov. 16-19 Empowers Future African American Innovators and Aims to Address the Diversity Gap in Silicon Valley

Fifty-three students and 19 faculty members representing more than 30 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) will visit nearly a dozen Silicon Valley/Bay Area corporations this week as UNCF hosts the fourth annual HBCU ICE (innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship) Summit. The goal of the four-day summit is to empower African American students—most of whom are computer science, engineering and information technology majors—to chart their career paths within the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. In addition, the summit will convene 19 HBCU computer science faculty members to attend professional development workshops and develop innovative approaches to computer science curriculum and pedagogy.

“I believe my experience in founding a tech startup is by far the most transformative experience in my life,” said Jackson State University (JSU) junior Eyerusalem Woldu, 21, who, two years ago, started her own company making iPad cases. She sold 1,200 of them to JSU to provide to the incoming freshman class, and used the funds to invest in other startup ventures. “I’m looking forward to meeting students and professionals at the HBCU Innovation Summit with the same interests and passion as me, and I hope to land an internship in Silicon Valley.”

The summit also provides a forum to address the gaps in tech diversity that exist in Silicon Valley, where job growth will continue to boom in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that employment in STEM fields will increase by more than 9 million jobs between 2012 and 2022. However, African Americans represent only six percent of the STEM workforce and, according to data from The New York Times, the percentage of minorities working at Silicon Valley giants is even lower. Self-reported data from 11 of the major tech giants, according to CNET.com, reveals that less than 30 percent of their workforce is comprised of women. Of the participating HBCU Innovation Summit students, nearly 40 percent are women.

More than 200 HBCU students applied for 53 spots, and were competitively selected based on their GPAs, personal statements, internships, computer science skills and demonstrated leadership. More than 100 HBCU faculty applied for nearly 20 spots, and they were chosen based on their background in computer science education, leadership, and willingness to serve as change agents on their respective campuses to align computer science curriculum with industry workforce needs and demands.

“We believe that HBCUs, the students they serve, and faculty they employ, have the ability to drive innovation and meet the high standards of the highly competitive job market. However, without increased public and private support, the divide will continue,” said UNCF’s National STEM Director, Dr. Chad Womack, a graduate of UNCF-member institution Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine. “Many of the nation’s HBCUs are producing top-tier talent in the innovation economy, and UNCF wants to establish a consistent presence in Silicon Valley so that employers first look to HBCU students as qualified employees for recruiting.”

The summit begins Nov. 16, when students will travel across Silicon Valley and the Bay Area on an “HBCU Tech Trek” to visit Adobe, eBay, Google, NetApp, Pure Storage, Salesforce, Symantec, Visa, and Veritas, which are all event sponsors. Read more about these companies and their engagement in this year’s HBCU Innovation Summit.

On Nov. 18, students will participate in a competition to pitch their startup businesses to leaders in the tech industry at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which works primarily with underrepresented groups to pursue creative strategies that leverage information technology for positive social impact. Last year, Kapor Center CEO Mitch Kapor and his wife announced a $40 million investment over three years to address the leaky tech pipeline for African Americans, Latinos and women. At the 2015 HBCU Innovation Summit, Kapor and UNCF CEO Dr. Michael Lomax hosted a fireside chat with students to discuss diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley.

On the final day of the summit, students will participate in tech empowerment workshops and a technical career fair. Students will hear from Dakari Franklin and Paul Hammond, 2016 HBCU Innovation Summit scholars, who co-created Black Valley, a community comprised of more than 500 Black interns working at Silicon Valley technology companies who share professional and academic resources.

The objectives of the HBCU Innovation Summit have proved successful, as nearly a third of 2014 and 2015 participants are now interning or working full-time at technology companies.

  • Click here to view the list of 2016 HBCU ICE Innovation Summit fellows by last name
  • Click here to view the list of 2016 HBCU ICE Innovation Summit fellows by institution name
  • Click here to view the list of 2016 HBCU ICE Innovation Summit faculty by institution name

Summit sponsors include Adobe; Airbnb; Chevron; eBay; Fund II Foundation; Google; Kaiser Permanente; Kapor Center for Social Impact; Lowe’s Companies, Inc.; NetApp; Pacific Gas & Electric; Pure Storage; Salesforce; SpaceX; Symantec; Visa; and Veritas.

Follow the HBCU ICE Innovation Summit on Twitter by following @UNCF and #HBCUInnovation. View 2015 HBCU ICE Innovation Summit highlights here.


About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships annually and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org, or for continuous news and updates, follow UNCF on Twitter, @UNCF.