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Historically Black Colleges and Universities Join Silicon Valley Companies for 3rd Annual HBCU Innovation Summit: Nov. 18-21

UNCF's annual conference aims to empower future African American innovators. Nearly 65 students from 21 historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS) will visit eBay, Intuit, Pandora, Pinterest, Oracle, Square, Twilio, Yelp and Uber.

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) will partner with nearly a dozen major corporations in Silicon Valley to host the third annual HBCU ICE (Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship) Summit in San Mateo, CA from November 18 – 21. Nearly 65 students representing 21 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will visit Silicon Valley/Bay Area corporations, participate in forums led by various tech company and startup leaders, and attend workshops designed to support students’ career development.

The goal of the summit is to empower students─ most of whom are Computer Science, Engineering and Information Technology majors─ to chart their career paths within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) industries by seeing first-hand the day-to-day operations of tech and innovation professionals, including networking opportunities with African-American tech employees and members of the Bay Area African-American Employee Network (AAEN). The summit also provides a forum to address the gaps in tech diversity that exist in Silicon Valley. For instance, a 2011 report conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that African Americans represented only six percent of the STEM workforce, and according to data from the New York Times, the percentage of minorities working at Silicon Valley giants is even lower. Self-reported data from 11 of the major tech giants, according to, reveals that less than 30 percent of their workforce is comprised of women. Of the participating HBCU students, more than 40 percent are women.

“UNCF aims to establish a consistent presence in Silicon Valley so that technology companies will think of HBCU students first as a pipeline of diverse and qualified talent for recruiting,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF President and CEO. “Many of the nation’s HBCUs are producing top-tier talent in the innovation economy, and this summit is a way to bridge the gap between these students and Silicon Valley employers.”

The summit begins Nov.18 with a Lean Startup 101 and Tech Entrepreneurship workshop. For the next three days, students will travel across Silicon Valley and the Bay Area on an “HBCU Tech Trek” to visit tech Giants and visit Unicorn companies, which have a valuation of more than $1 billion. Students will visit eBay, Intuit, Pandora, Pinterest, Oracle, Square, Twilio, Yelp and Uber, which are all sponsors of the Tech Trek. Read more about these companies and their engagement in this year’s HBCU Innovation Summit. [See attachment]

On Nov. 20, Dr. Lomax will co-host a Fireside Chat with Mitch Kapor. Creator of Lotus 1-2-3, Kapor is Founder and CEO of Kapor Capital and the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which pursues creative strategies that leverage information technology for positive social impact, working primarily with underrepresented communities focusing on gap-closing endeavors. In August, Kapor and his wife announced a $40 million investment over three years to address the leaky tech pipeline for African Americans, Latinos, and women.

“We are at a critical moment in Silicon Valley as people are beginning to understand that tech’s dismal diversity numbers are limiting our capacity to innovate,” said Mitch Kapor, partner at Kapor Capital. “HBCUs have a critical role to play in the future of tech. I’m very happy to join Dr. Lomax at this year's Innovation Summit.”

After the Fireside Chat, students will engage in Diversity in Technology Forums, and hear from speakers sharing their personal experiences of being among few African Americans in Silicon Valley. One of the speakers is Leslie Miley, former Engineer Manager at Twitter who recently made national news headlines by publicly citing his frustration over the company's overwhelmingly white workforce and internal resistance to changing it, prompting him to leave the job he loved.

On the final day of the summit, students will participate in Student Tech-Empowerment Workshops, which explore the theme of preparing for technical careers.

The summit is led by Dr. Chad Womack, a graduate of UNCF-member institution Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine, who serves as UNCF’s National STEM Director and Executive Director of the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative.

“We believe that HBCUs and the students they serve have the ability to drive innovation and meet the high standards of the highly-competitive job market. However, without increased public and private support, the divide will continue,” said Dr. Womack. “I’m very encouraged by the support of the Tech Trek partners and sponsors joining us this year, and by the various speakers who are offering their personal insight with students, to help lead them into careers that will truly navigate the future of the American economy.”

Summit sponsors include Kaiser Permanente, Kapor Center for Social Impact, NetApp, Oracle Academy, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and UBS. Participating HBCUs include Bennett College, Bowie State University, Claflin University, Clark Atlanta University, Fisk University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Harris Stowe State University, Howard University, Huston-Tillotson University, Miles College, Mississippi Valley State University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, Shaw University, Spelman College, Tougaloo College, Tuskegee University, and Virginia State University.

An extension of the HBCU Innovation Summit, the HBCU Hackathon League and Tournament, will take place in the spring of 2016, where student groups will conceptualize and develop software applications. Sarah Jones, a Howard University senior and member of the winning team at the 2014 HBCU Facebook Hackathon, will speak to students at the upcoming summit. For her active role in STEM organizations on and off campus, and her passion to pursue Computer Science, Sarah was awarded a $50,000 scholarship by From One Hand to AnOTHER, the foundation of mega-producer Pharrell Williams. She was surprised with the scholarship during the 2015 taping of UNCF’s annual telethon, UNCF An Evening of Stars.®

“I am so excited to see my HBCU family at the upcoming HBCU Innovation Summit,” said Jones. “Together we will bring the uplifting, socially-conscience and hardworking culture of HBCUs to Silicon Valley. I look forward to brainstorming ways that we can make engineering and technology more appealing to minority students. And, like last year, we will share many memories that will stay with us as we begin our careers.” 

Follow the HBCU Innovation Summit on Twitter by following @UNCF and using the hashtag #HBCUInnovation

About UNCF 
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students' education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships annually and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in." ® Learn more at

Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.


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