Central State University is launching a technology education program and will serve as a regional hub for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the Midwest.
CSU becomes one of just 11 HBCU C2 initiative hubs created with funding from Apple as part of its Community Education Initiative to expand coding, creativity and workforce development skills, especially in communities of color.
"We are a historically Black institution and when we look at the disparities in the workforce as well as in higher education when it comes to the STEM area, we need more people of color going into the STEM area," says Jack Thomas, Ph.D., president of Central State University. "In terms of the number of women in the STEM area, we want to increase those numbers (too)."
In fact, Robbie Melton, Ph.D., dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Tennessee State University where the HBCU C2 initiative began, has big goals for HBCUs and women.
"In two years, I want all HBCUs to be coding and creating," she says in a statement. "In two years, you're going to see many more people of color entering the STEM workforce — and in two years we're going to double the number of Black women in technology through this program."
The hub will offer opportunities for students, staff and faculty from all disciplines and majors to learn how to code using a program created by Apple using its Swift programming language. The hub reaches beyond the university to alumni, the community, and surrounding HBCUs in the Midwest.
The program will start by offering coding instruction for staff and faculty before expanding to workshops that can host up to 30 students in a class. COVID-19 is affecting plans and causing limits on class sizes. Marvin L. Reid, Jr., DBA, is aiming to begin offering courses for college credit in the spring.
Reid, a self-professed "tech geek," is department chair of the College of Business, associate professor of Management Information Systems, and the project manager for the HBCU C2 initiative. It was his efforts with the program and training at the flagship hub at Tennessee State University that led to CSU being selected.
"Our three main goals as an HBCU C2 hub are: focus on faculty development and create opportunities for students to learn to code; deepen student engagement and persistence for 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 build career support technologies and solutions through Apple."
Reid says it's important to offer the coding workshops and credit and non-credit courses to students of all majors.
"We want to include every major, campus-wide, because we want to provide students with the resources, tools and knowledge - as well as our faculty and staff - on how to code and create and, from a teaching perspective, how to use technology to enhance the student learning."
For example, he says, a student might use coding skills to create a technology-based project on William Shakespeare rather than simply writing a traditional paper assignment.
CSU, which has an enrollment of about 2,100, is currently building out a dedicated technology lab that's scheduled to open in September. Apple says its goal "is to eventually expand coding and creativity programming to every single HBCU."