Central State named HBCU Technology Hub

Central State University is launching a technology education program and will serve as a regional hub for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the Midwest.

CSU becomes one of 11 HBCU C2 Initiative Centers created with funding from Apple as part of its Community Education Initiative to build skills in coding, creativity, and workforce development, especially in communities of color .

“We are a historically black institution and when we look at disparities in the workforce as well as in higher education as it relates to the STEM field, we need more people of color to enter the STEM field” , says Jack Thomas, Ph.D., president of Central State University. “In terms of the number of women in STEM, we want to increase those numbers (too).”

In fact, Robbie Melton, Ph.D., Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Tennessee State University where HBCU C2 started, has big goals for HBCUs and women.

“In two years, I want all HBCUs to code and create,” she said in a statement. “In two years, you’re going to see a lot more people of color entering the STEM workforce — and in two years, we’re going to double the number of black women in tech through this program.”

The hub will offer students, staff and faculty from all disciplines and majors the opportunity to learn to code using a curriculum created by Apple using its Swift programming language. The hub extends beyond the university to alumni, the community, and surrounding HBCUs in the Midwest.

The program will begin by offering coding instruction to staff and faculty before expanding to workshops for up to 30 students in a class. COVID-19 is affecting plans and causing limits on class sizes. Marvin L. Reid, Jr., DBA, aims to begin offering college credit courses in the spring.

Reid, a self-proclaimed “tech geek,” is Department Head of the College of Business, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems, and Project Manager for HBCU C.2 initiative. It was his efforts with the program and training at Tennessee State University’s flagship center that led to CSU’s selection.

“Our three main goals as HBCU C2 hub are to: focus on faculty development and create opportunities for students to learn to code; deepen student engagement and persistence in STEM education through creative expressions with video, photography, music, and drawing; and create a pipeline of new IT talent for HBCUs and inspire individuals to develop career-enhancing technology and solutions through Apple.”

Reid says it’s important to offer the coding workshops and the credit and non-credit courses to students of all majors.

“We want to include all majors, campus-wide, because we want to provide students with the resources, tools, and knowledge — and our faculty and staff — about how to code and build and, from the point from a teaching perspective, how to use technology to enhance student learning.

For example, he says, a student can use their coding skills to create a technology-based project on William Shakespeare rather than just writing a traditional paper assignment.

CSU, which has about 2,100 enrollments, is currently building a dedicated tech lab slated to open in September. Apple says its goal “is to eventually expand coding and creativity programming to every HBCU.”

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