UNCF HBCU Innovation Summit Opens Silicon Valley Doors to Talented Students

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Monique LeNoir UNCF Communications 202.810.0231 monique.lenoir@uncf.org

UNCF conference Oct. 25-29 addresses the diversity gap in Silicon Valley

104 students and over 29 faculty members representing more than 30 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) will visit over a dozen Silicon Valley/Bay Area corporations next week as UNCF hosts the fifth 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.

“The HBCU Innovation Summit helped me tremendously last year,” said second-year summit scholar Breonna July, a rising senior and computer science major at Spelman College. “For the first time, I was surrounded by a large group of like-minded, minority, computer science-focused scholars. It made me acutely aware of my role as a black woman in technology. The summit also influenced me to realize how critical internships are in cultivating career pathways. I interned with Dell this past summer and look forward to forging new relationships in Silicon Valley at this fall’s summit.”

Building upon last year’s effort, the summit will again convene key HBCU computer science faculty members to attend professional development workshops and develop innovative approaches to computer science curriculum and pedagogy that are in line with Silicon Valley’s rapidly changing computer programming and technology needs.

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.

Summit scholars were competitively selected based on their GPAs, personal statements, internships, computer science skills and demonstrated leadership. The average GPA for the fifth cohort is 3.5. More than 100 HBCU faculty applied for 25 spots, and 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 Oct. 25, when students will travel across Silicon Valley and the Bay Area on an HBCU “Tech Trek” tour visiting Google-YouTube, Pure Storage, Adobe, eBay, NetApp, Salesforce, Workday, Veritas, Twitter, Uber, WalmartLabs and Yelp, which are all event sponsors. Students will engage with engineers at various panels and workshops.

 Read more about these companies and their engagement in this year’s HBCU Innovation Summit.

“The HBCU Innovation Summit was instrumental to me,” said Morehouse College senior and computer science major Ernest Holmes. “I was debating research but after speaking to company engineers and CTOs, I was inspired to stay on track to pursue a career in the cutting edge of technology and accept a returning internship offer at Google.”

On the final day of the summit, students will participate in tech empowerment workshops and a technical career fair. Summit scholars will have the opportunity to meet company recruiters, and engage in technical and professional development workshops.

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 2017 HBCU ICE Innovation Summit fellows by name

Click here to view the list of 2017 HBCU ICE Innovation Summit fellows by institution name

Click here to view the list of 2017 HBCU ICE Innovation Summit faculty by institution name


Summit sponsors include Fund II Foundation, Google, Alaska Airlines, Pure Storage, Adobe, eBay, NetApp, Salesforce, Veritas, Twitter, Uber, UBS, WalmartLabs, Yelp, Tableau Software, Quicken Loans, Lowe’s Innovation Labs, Chevron, Goldman Sachs, Blackbaud, Jopwell, Salesforce and others.

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

View HBCU ICE Innovation Summit highlights here.

Visit UNCF.org/STEMScholars for more information on UNCF’s efforts to support students in tech fields.


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.