‘From K to grey’ – Bank of America donates $100K to VCU for tech talent pipeline

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Programming for public school students, projects and mentorships for VCU students

Continuing a yearslong partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University, Bank of America has awarded a $100,000 grant to the school’s College of Engineering Foundation to focus on establishing data science talent pipelines.

New VCU College of Engineering building. Photo courtesy VCU
New VCU College of Engineering building. Photo courtesy VCU

The idea behind the grant is to develop interest in computer science and other STEM programs for “K to grey,” says VCU College of Engineering Dean Barbara Boyan. Funding will be used to create programming focused on data science education for public school students, but the partnership between VCU and Bank of America will also support mentorships from professionals working for the state’s fourth-largest bank

The funding will go directly to new curriculum and project development and to support pre-college activities to prepare students for STEM education, Boyan says. 

“[The idea is to] plant the seed in their brain that this is an option for them, and then to help them develop the skills they actually need to do it,” Boyan says, “and then, once they’re in engineering school, to actually tackle problems.” 

Project teams will be composed of students from engineering, business, humanities and sciences who will be paired with one of Bank of America’s 1,500 local information technology employees and a VCU faculty member for mentorship during the data analytics-focused projects.

“The secret sauce to this is that they work with an actual person in the business world at Bank of America, as well as an ivory-tower-type faculty member so that they can get the benefit of both worlds,” Boyan says.

The VCU-Bank of America partnership dates back to 2007 when the bank donated $500,000 to support the construction of the VCU College of Engineering’s East Hall. Since then, VCU and Bank of America have worked together on STEM programming, teaming up with local high schools and tech education programs, including CodeVA and the Virginia National Center for Women & Information Technology chapter.

“Given our footprint in Richmond … we have a massive technology team here and we’re looking to grow that team,” says Victor Branch, Bank of America Richmond market president. “We want to hire future graduates. We could not identify a stronger, [more] innovative partner than VCU.”

A primary goal of the partnership and grant is to help first-generation college students get into data science programming, and eventually into the tech talent pipeline.  

“When they come to VCU, they have the credentials, the prerequisites, to get through the engineering rigor and come out with a job that will be a game-changer for that family and to break that cycle of poverty that they’ve been in,” Branch says. “We hope to and plan to have jobs ready for the graduates when they come out.”

 

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