This year marks the first that HBCUs will be included in the Microsoft Imagine Cup. We covered this earlier this year, but there is a burning question surrounding this event: Why, exactly, is this the first time that HBCUs are participating in a competition which has been held annually for the last eight years?
Last year, The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities called for the engagement and strengthening of HBCUs. According to Tara Walker, academic developer evangelist for Microsoft, HBCUs have long been liberal arts colleges and therefore overlooked in the recruiting process for these competitions. But these highly recognizable schools are producing students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Walker immediately made an effort to reach out to them.
“It’s more about awareness,” said Walker. “It’s not a conscious effort to exclude them.”
Twenty-four teams between six HBCUs–Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University and Tuskegee University–competed in both rounds this spring. None of these teams made the finals, but Tuskegee was recognized as having an exceptional entry.
“No matter the outcome, it’s a chance to connect and get opportunities. These are diverse competitions,” said Alfred Avor, a senior at Howard University. “Microsoft is revered. Anyone in this field would love to do something associated with them,” he added. The competition offers real world experience, gives students insight on the day-to-day operations in project management, builds resumes, and even provides an opportunity for student projects to get funding from venture capitalists.
“We have a lot of people who joined Microsoft from participating in the Imagine Cup,” Walker said. “Not many students [have] the initiative and drive to do this, so they already put themselves in a class above when they do.”
On a global scale, the US “lacks a strong impact in technology,” even as more technology jobs become available. It’s important to use all available resources in finding the most qualified students. The US ranks 17th globally in terms of education and is well behind nations like China and India when it comes to churning out degrees in the STEM.
“You can’t leave any ethnic or cultural group out of the US for that,” says Tara Walker. “The number of jobs in the next ten years will be in stem-type fields. We don’t have enough resources nationally to fill those. So it’s important that all colleges are aware of the benefits of being in this industry.”
via Atlanta PostCategory: Featured, News | Tags: HBCU, hbcus, Imagine Cup, Microsoft, STEM