Tennessee State University Opens HBCU Coding Hub

Tennessee State University (TSU) launched a computer programming and app development hub for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The national initiative will also give coding opportunities to underserved communities in Nashville.

In early July, TSU hosted the inaugural “HBCU C2 Presidential Academy” at its newly established National Center for Smart Technology Innovations. Leaders from 14 historically Black schools met at TSU to create apps to solve real-life problems, the Associated Press reported.

“Tennessee State University is proud to host this great initiative as we give HBCU students and Nashville public schools access to this opportunity to expand their knowledge and gain important workforce development skills,” TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover said in a statement.

Glover continued:

“Coding and app development are a growing part of the global workforce, and we want to help make sure people of color, especially our students, are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be competitive and successful.”

Participants in the coding hub included HBCU presidents, IT staff, faculty members, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students interested in learning about the work of app developers. The participating HCBUs include: Arkansas Baptist College, Bethune-Cookman University, Dillard University, Fisk University, Fort Valley State University, Lincoln University-Missouri, Morehouse College, Norfolk State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University Shreveport Louisiana, Texas Southern University, Wilberforce University, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

“I think this program is phenomenal,” Dr. Sharron Herron-Williams, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Southern University. “We have a reputation as HBCUs for taking people from where they are, to where they want to be in life. And it is my belief, that by participating in this program, this is only going to expand our territory.”

TSU’s hub is being supported by Apple, which is supplying the university with equipment, scholarships, and professional development as part of its Community Education Initiative. The tech giant has similar projects in Austin and Houston in Texas and Boise, Idaho.

“Anything is possible when people come together with a shared vision,” Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted after the initiative’s launch. “Thank you to @TSUedu for your leadership and enthusiasm in bringing coding to your community and HBCUs nationwide!”

Apart from working with Apple, TSU is teaming up with Metro Nashville Public Schools, Motlow State Community College (MSCC), and the Metropolitan Nashville Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Students at MSCC who complete a Swift coding course will be able to easily transition to TSU or other four-year degree programs, TSU said in its press release.

“We want students of all ages and backgrounds to have the opportunities to pursue coding and creativity,”

Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU’s interim Dean of Graduates and Professional Studies, said in a statement. Melton also said the initiative will work with Metro Nashville Public Schools to help students in Pre-K and higher learn to code.

The importance of teaching students of color how to code has been celebrated for the last few years. The tech industry has been working to improve diversity in its workforce, which have been predominantly male and white.

A 2016 analysis by The Wall Street Journal showed only a third of tech companies’ leadership roles were held by people of color. Only 36 percent of Apple’s more than 72,000 employees in 2015 were minorities in leadership positions. The report found that 48 percent of the company’s tech employees were people of color that year.

Apple’s 2017 diversity and inclusion report revealed its workforce is overwhelmingly white and male. Only 32 percent of the company’s worldwide workforce was female. More than half of the workforce (54 percent) was white, while the rest of the company was 13 percent Hispanic, 9 percent Black, 21 percent Asian, 3 percent multiracial, and 1 percent other, according to TechCrunch.

The 2017 report also showed that many of Apple’s Black and Hispanic employees are in lower-paying retail roles. Meanwhile, white men continue to hold the majority of Apple’s leadership roles. Just 3 percent of Apple’s US leaders were Black in 2017, 7 percent were Hispanic, and 1 percent were multiracial.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.