VCU College of Engineering partners with Bank of America to advance diversity and inclusion in STEM

Grant and employee mentorship opportunities to support VCU Engineering diversity, skills-building initiatives

Diverse group of students walking outside Cabell library

Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) College of Engineering Foundation has received a $100,000 grant from Bank of America as part of an ongoing partnership to facilitate data science education at the university and support the college’s efforts to create innovative technical-education pathways that provide access to diverse communities. Grant funds will be paired with mentoring and classroom support from an engagement group drawn from the 1,500 Information Technology (IT) associates employed locally by the bank, as well as members of the broader tech community within Richmond.

“The need for qualified candidates with STEM skills is at an all-time high,” said Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America. “This partnership will bring faculty, students and the business community together to solve real-world problems, while developing a rich pipeline of computer science, data engineering and business development talent for Richmond.”

The VCU College of Engineering is committed to advancing technical education opportunities for non-traditional students, including first-generation college students and those from communities of color. Grant funds will go toward ongoing initiatives to increase the talent pool of data scientists, coders, developers and information security specialists. VCU College of Engineering diversity and inclusion efforts have garnered national recognition, including a top 100 minority degree producer certification from Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, and a Bronze award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Diversity Recognition Program, the highest level awarded in 2019.

“This grant from Bank of America exemplifies our shared commitment to the value of public/private partnerships in providing access to the opportunities that a college education can provide,” said Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin, Jr. Dean of the VCU College of Engineering. “Our approach is to build the talent pipeline throughout the K-12 and higher-ed continuum. While many of our students begin college immediately after high school, we are proud of our students who have taken advantage of the community college system before transferring to VCU. More and more, we are seeing engineering education as a lifetime process, comprising traditional master’s and doctoral programs, as well as certificates demonstrating specific competencies. Bank of America recognizes how important all of this is to building and retaining a 21st century, technology-competent workforce in Central Virginia. We are glad to have them as our partner.”

As Richmond’s tech presence continues to grow, this latest grant is part of an ongoing partnership between Bank of America and the College of Engineering that began with a $500,000 anchor grant in 2007 to support the construction of the College of Engineering East Hall. Since then, the university and Bank of America’s Global Technology & Operations team have built a growing partnership focused on inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in STEM, teaming up with local high schools and tech education programs, including CodeVA and the Virginia National Center for Women & Information Technology chapter.

“We are committed to supporting initiatives that improve access to opportunity and advance economic mobility for all, now and into the future,” said Victor Branch, Richmond market president for Bank of America. “This partnership presents two educational opportunities for the Commonwealth: to diversify our talent pool by broadening access to top-level instruction, and to deepen the reserves of local tech talent — for Bank of America and other major tech employers putting roots down in Virginia.”

Bank of America continues to support local and statewide organizations responding to community needs exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, including $150,000 for groups assisting the 13,000 Virginia households currently at risk of eviction, a strategic partnership with VA Ready in the rapid re-training of unemployed individuals, and the donation of 85,000 PPE masks for Virginia nonprofits.