By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University has launched a national initiative that seeks to bring coding experiences to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and underserved communities.
TSU hosted the inaugural “HBCU C2 Presidential Academy” July 14-19 through its newly established National Center for Smart Technology Innovations. HBCU C2 will bring coding and creativity opportunities to students across HBCU campuses and to a broad group of students across Nashville.
Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted following the launch: “Anything is possible when people come together with a shared vision. Thank you to @TSUedu for your leadership and enthusiasm in bringing coding to your community and HBCUs nationwide!”
Leaders of 14 historically black colleges and universities – including Tennessee State – from across the country came away from the Academy with knowledge and skills in coding and app development from Apple’s comprehensive coding curriculum, which utilizes its popular Swift programming language.
“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,” said TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover. “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.”
The HBCUs that were part of the first cohort 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.
Participants at the Academy included HBCU presidents, faculty members, IT staff and STEM students interested in becoming app developers.
“I think this program is phenomenal,” said 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 business administration major Ahmad Richardson agreed. The junior from Memphis was returning a book to the campus library when he saw signs about coding and inquired about it.
“I talked to two ladies who told me more, and asked if I’d like to join,” recalled Richardson, who plans to start his own business. “And I said, I’d love to. It’s a real opportunity to be able to create something new, to add my own flavor.”
TSU is also working with Apple, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Motlow State Community College and the Metropolitan Nashville Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. to expand coding opportunities to other students in the community.
“We want students of all ages and background to have the opportunity to pursue coding and creativity,” said Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU’s interim Dean of Graduates and Professional Studies, and the initiative’s main facilitator. “That’s why TSU is working side-by-side with Metro Nashville Public Schools to empower students from Pre-K through workforce and align curricula to make it even easier for students to learn to code and get credit for that effort.”
Dr. Douglas Renfro is executive director of learning technology and library services at MNPS. He said coding provides “opportunities for students that they had not seen before.”
“We’re also showing students you don’t have to necessarily have a four-year degree to get started in life,” said Renfro. “This can become a way that you can boost yourself up, find your interest, and then maybe go get your four-year degree, or your two-year degree.”
As part of the new initiative, students who complete a Swift coding course at Motlow State Community College will be able to seamlessly transition to TSU or other four-year degree programs.
“We are excited to be part of this national effort to expand coding opportunities to students and teachers, and we can’t wait to see the amazing things our community can do with these new skills,” said Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of TSU’s College of Engineering, and one of the coding trainers.
Apple is supporting TSU with equipment, scholarships and professional development to help the university launch its HBCU C2 initiative.
“Students of all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn to code,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.
“We are thrilled to be working with Tennessee State University to support their new initiative to bring coding and creativity to underrepresented groups across the broader Nashville community and to HBCUs nationwide.”
To learn more about HBCU C2, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/hbcuc2/.