In an effort to increase diversity — specifically the number of African Americans — in the U.S. tech sector, Google has embedded software engineers at a handful of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
While these schools produce 35 percent of all African Americans with computer science degrees, the numbers of those who make their way to Silicon Valley’s top tech firms is miniscule; Google itself is lacking in diversity, with African Americans making up only 1 percent of its workforce.
These Google engineers teach, mentor, and advise students at these institutions, which currently include Howard University in Washington, D.C.; Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia; Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn.; and Spelman College and Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the classroom, they also coach students on how to apply and interview for jobs.
“They’re not academics, but they have domain expertise that students could definitely learn a lot from,” Legrand Burge, chair of Howard University’s computer science department, said in a statement. “The word got out, and it actually got a lot of students interested in computer science who didn’t initially plan to study it.”
Since the introduction of these software engineers, class sizes for intro courses at Howard have doubled. And this summer, 30 of those students will get the chance to intern at Google.