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Norfolk State University closing the African American science gap

A Norfolk State University engineering student describes a process during class. Photo from Norfolk State University.

by Barry X. Campbell

In 2014, there were more than 99,000 engineering graduates from American colleges. Among them, only 3,500 were African American. African Americans are a rarity in the tech space and it’s calling for a change. This low statistic of involvement has even prompted the government to involve themselves. Why are blacks not pursuing math and science and how is Norfolk State University trying to make a difference?

Hiawatha Bray, technology writer for the business section of the Boston Globe, wrote an article called “Twitter CEO’s message to black engineers: We’re changing.” In the article, Damon Cox, director of economic development at the Boston Foundation, calls for a cultural change in our communities to commend being a math nerd rather than condemning it. The tech space supposedly has no gender and race doesn’t come into the equation.

Yet, the inequality gap shows another truth. Data storage company EMC Corporation reported in March of 2015, that only 3.7 percent of their employees were black. The pattern is consistent with a majority of companies in Silicon Valley.

Norfolk State University has accepted the challenge head on. The National Science Foundation has decided to donate almost a million dollars to Norfolk State University. Norfolk State has chosen to use the grant to build a new laboratory and experimental facility. The grant will also pay tuition for four Norfolk State University students, including a stipend. With the grant, Norfolk State University hopes to bring more people of color into the science community.