Bloomfield College Partners with Nonprofit to Help Minority IT and Computer Science Students

By Watson, Jamal Eric | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, July 31, 2014 | Go to article overview

Bloomfield College Partners with Nonprofit to Help Minority IT and Computer Science Students


Watson, Jamal Eric, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Howard University alumnus Kyle Rivers has been concerned about the lack of minority representation in the STEM field for some time.

"Whenever I walk into conferences and tech groups, there are still not enough minorities and women represented," says Rivers, who currently works as the webmaster at Bloomfield College, a small, private four-year liberal arts school in northern New Jersey.

Determined to do his part in stemming the tide and reversing the trend, Rivers helped convince administrators at the college to start offering free Saturday morning classes to minority middle and high school students from neighboring cities like Newark and East Orange. The classes are designed to interest students in pursuing science-related careers.

Partnering with the Black Data Processing Associates, a nonprofit organization of professionals who work in or have an interest in the computer science and information technology fields, 27 minority students from more than two dozen area schools answered the call and converged on the college's 11-acre campus last spring to learn about web programming, web development and database design.

"The students really got into it. They were excited," says Rivers, who also volunteers as an instructor for the computer camp. "We started with two-hour sessions and then we moved to four."

The program was so successful that the school will offer the camp during the upcoming academic school year and has increased its efforts to recruit additional students.

The camp is one of a number of initiatives in effect on college campuses across the country with the intended purpose of introducing middle and high school minority students to careers in the STEM fields.

Nationally, African-Americans comprise just 3 percent of all American scientists and engineers, with Hispanics making up 4 percent of the total. The numbers are equally dismal among minority women, with 1 out of every 10 STEM professionals fitting the demographic, according to the National Science Foundation.

"Colleges have to partner and go beyond traditional education borders to bring STEM to our students," says Dr. Marion Terenzio, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Bloomfield and a strong supporter of the camp. "I think it is extremely significant and perhaps most necessary to get students into the pipeline. These students can do it, but they have to be exposed to teachers and professors who can bring STEM to them at that level. …

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