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This year’s HBCU Technology Conference was bigger and better than ever.
Now in its second year, last week’s virtual conference added additional elements for HBCU students, staff, faculty, and executive leadership to dive deep into tech. In fact, the event was a huge logistical operation, with more than 130 speakers across 90 sessions over 4 days. Over 1,500 people registered from 102 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country.
Billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith was this year’s featured speaker. In a pre-recorded virtual fireside chat with HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton, Smith issued a call to action to HBCUs to accelerate digital transformation at HBCUs and prepare students to participate in the fourth industrial revolution.
The conference -presented by HP and sponsored by Intel and Microsoft – focused on the key themes of digital transformation, emerging technology, and the future of work trends as part of its continuing commitment to helping students prepare for the future of the tech world.
With programs designed across four verticals: Information Technology, HBCU Executive Leaders, Faculty & Staff, and the Student Track for undergraduate & graduate students across all disciplines, the conference drew together diverse sectors of the HCBU field, offering targeted and topical seminars and panel discussions.
Highlights include the Future of Work Academy, geared towards HCBU students looking to get ahead with jobs and internship opportunities. Hosting a set of free career accelerator sessions, interactive symposiums, and innovation incubators, HPs HCBU Conference was designed to prep students to work at leading tech companies such as HP.
Speakers at the HBCU Technology Conference
HP Global Education Impact Manager Tunde Agboke said, “My vision of what FOWA is and can be for HP is this ecosystem that allows us to directly impact the life trajectories of the individuals that we’re engaging with. If we continue to create a future where not just HP — but all of our partners — have access to exceptional talent, then we’re creating a more diverse tech industry.”
Speakers included HCBU leaders, guest presenters from other universities, and industry and government experts. LaTashaGary, Director of Sustainable Impact Program Management Office at HP; Ragina Arrington, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative; and Calvon McCoy, Head of Americas Enterprise Technology Services at Bloomberg, spoke among others.
Keynote speaker Dr Dennis Kimbro, professor, entrepreneur, and author of Digital Transformation The Only Choice for Financial Freedom in the Black Community and how HCBU’s Can Lead the Way closed the conference.
The Bot-a-Thon — an innovation incubator challenge in which students create a bot to solve an assigned real-world problem —made its return alongside new competitions focused on esports, health IT, and marketing.
This year’s challenge-winners received closed-door virtual meetings with HP leaders, including president of Personal Systems Alex Cho, global head and VP of marketing planning Tara Agen and LaTasha Gary. These meetings aim to allow prize-winning students to all things tech, whilst allowing HP executives to engage with the students on a personal level about what it’s like to be in the minority while working in the tech space.
HP has an impressive track record of investing in HBCUs to accelerate a more diverse and inclusive tech workforce. For the past few years, it has hosted the annual HP-HBCU Business Challenge, designed to engage Black students interested in pursuing careers in business and technology.
The conference might be over, but sessions are still available on-demand for HBCU Faculty & Staff, HBCU IT, HBCU Executive Leaders, and HBCU Students