CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte is one of just a handful of historically Black colleges and universities selected to receive a portion of a $100 Million investment from IBM, as part of a pledge to show that representation matters.
IBM announced its first Quantum Education and Research Initiative for HBCUs. The money will be used to enhance curriculum, create more research opportunities for faculty and staff, and carve a brighter path for students.
“We need to invest in underserved and overlooked areas because we’re not competing with the person down the street, or in another city, we’re competing globally for jobs,” said Terik Tidwell, executive director of the Smith Tech-Innovation Center at JCSU.
Tidwell said the investment will make a difference not only in what programs they can offer but also, and perhaps more importantly, what the future could look like for students who choose STEM careers.
“This is a part of systems change and wealth-creating,” Tidwell said. “For them to get a job [with a starting salary of] $80,000-100,000 it’s changing their family, it’s changing their descendants that’s going to come after them.”
Statistics show Black students are underrepresented across STEM fields.
Only 15% of Black and Latinx students are exposed to computer science in high school, Tidwell cited. By college, the number of Black and Latinx students declaring STEM-related majors drops to less than 10%. Less than 5% of the employee population at most STEM-related industries is Black or Latinx, Tidwell said.
“This huge economic wave is coming and we need to make sure that we are part of it,” he said.
One of the students who is excited about the investment said she believes it could open doors for those who come behind her.
“It’s definitely challenging as a young black woman because it’s so easy to get overlooked,” said JCSU senior Crystal Howard.
The computer science and information systems major recently accepted a position at Bank of America.
“There is so much talent at HBCU’s,” Howard said. “Now they’re looking, and man, are we gonna take corporate America by storm. I can’t wait, I can’t wait and I’m so excited to be apart of it.”