Even though the US seems to be divided more along racial lines these days than at any point during the last six decades — not helped by the toxic atmosphere of the political system and the COVID-19 pandemic — there are always stories that lean towards the positivity still left in the country. One such silver lining has been IBM founding the First Quantum Education and Research Initiative for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The initiative, called the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center, will include a donation of $100 million in Skills Academy technology, assets, resources and skills development, and is IBM’s move to steer inclusivity and diversity within the quantum workforce from this day forth in all STEM disciplines.
Led by Howard University which is based in the nation’s capital, the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center will allow members to use its quantum computers while offering collaboration on academic, education, and community outreach programs.
Diversity & Inclusion
“We believe that in order to expand opportunity for diverse populations, we need a diverse talent pipeline of the next generation of tech leaders from HBCUs. Diversity and inclusion is what fuels innovation and students from HBCUs will be positioned to play a significant part of what will drive innovations for the future like quantum computing, cloud and artificial intelligence,” said Carla Grant Pickens, Chief Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer at IBM.
Like Howard University, the other institutions participating in the IBM-HBCU program have been selected based on their research and education focus in physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other STEM fields.
The Universities are as follows:
1.Albany State University
2.Clark Atlanta University
3.Coppin State University
7.Morgan State University
8.North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
10.Texas Southern University
11.University of the Virgin Islands
12.Virginia Union University
13.Xavier University of Louisiana
IBM Skills Academy Academic Initiative
With more than a hundred HBCUs in the United States, this first dozen or so surely represent only the beginning of a shift in focus for the quantum tech industry. According to the IBM website, there are also a number of HBCUs included in the IBM Skills Academy:
1.Fayetteville State University
2.Grambling State University
3.Johnson C. Smith University
4.Norfolk State University
5.North Carolina A&T State University
6.North Carolina Central University
8.Virginia State University
9.West Virginia State University
Pathway to STEM Fields
“Diversity is a source of competitive advantage, essential to create a thriving quantum industry,” said Dario Gil, Director of IBM Research. “We could not be more excited about partnering with our HBCU colleagues to help educate and empower the first generation of quantum computing native students and researchers.”
While Howard University’s President Wayne A. I. Frederick added:
“Howard University has prioritized our efforts to support our students’ pathway to STEM fields for many years with exciting results as we witness more and more graduates becoming researchers, scientists and engineers with renowned national companies. Our faculty and students look forward to collaborating with our peer institutions through the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center. We’re excited to share best practices and work together to prepare students to participate in a quantum-ready workforce.”
The move by IBM is surely its intention to right some of the wrongs currently at play in not only the quantum tech industry but in the broader STEM ecosystem, too.
TQD — like IBM and other companies in the industry — is an advocate of inclusiveness in the workplace regardless of a person’s ethnicity or background. Let’s hope the tech giant’s lead will open the floodgates to a fairer, more equal playing field in this industry and others.