MOUNTAIN VIEW (AP) — Howard University freshman Alanna Walton knew something was different about the professor teaching her introduction to computer science course.
First, there was her name: Professor Sabrina. She was an African American woman, kept office hours until 2 a.m., and had an additional title: Google In Residence.
“It was an awesome class,” said Alanna who has already chosen her major at the Washington D.C.-based university: computer science.
In ongoing efforts to diversify Silicon Valley’s tech sector, Google is embedding engineers at historically Black colleges and universities where they teach, mentor and advise on curriculum.
Today 35 percent of African Americans receiving computer science degrees come from those schools, but they don’t make their way to Silicon Valley’s top tech firms. Google is typical — about 1 percent of its technical staffers are Black.
Last year a push by civil rights advocate Jesse Jackson prompted several dozen tech firms to release workforce diversity data which showed under-representation of African Americans, Latinos and women in the field.
In response, businesses, universities and community leaders have launched initiatives aimed at diversifying their ranks, both ethnically and by gender.
Facebook offers “Facebook University,” an internship for low income minority college freshmen interested in computer science. Intel has committed $300 million over the next five years toward diversifying its workforce, while Apple has a $50 million partnership with nonprofits to support women and minority computer science majors.
Google decided to go to the source, sending a handful of software engineers to teach at Howard, Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, Fisk University in Nashville, and Spelman and Morehouse colleges in Atlanta.
They taught introductory courses, but they also trained students on everything from how to send a professional email to how to make it through a software engineering job interview, which can involve solving time-consuming coding questions at a white board.
This summer, 30 of those students will be Google interns.
By MARTHA MENDOZA