ASU, IBM form $2 million partnership to help close gap in STEM

ASU, IBM form $2 million partnership to help close gap in STEM

Staff Report

Alabama State University and IBM (International Business Machines) announced a joint educational partnership that includes access to the IBM Skills Academy focused on digital learning and technology skills.

Through IBM’s existing academic initiative, the company will make available software and cloud technology estimated in the millions of dollars. The monies are in-kind.

Carl Pettis, Ph.D., provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said the partnership is one step closer to closing the diversity gap in STEM by preparing the next generation for the high-tech workforce.

“It is my hope that this partnership is the start of a fruitful collaboration between Alabama State University and IBM,” Pettis said.  “We want our students, faculty and staff to take full advantage of the (digital) badges that are being offered and for them to make the most of this experience to better prepare themselves for tomorrow.”

Digital badges are received once an individual completes the training modules.  He or she can add the digital badge to his or her resume.

Coordinator of the University’s Applied Technology Program Kenley H. Obas, Ed.D., said the partnership is an education and research initiative aimed toward driving more diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

“This partnership will position ASU students to play a significant part in what will drive innovations for the future,” Obas said. “They have access to training for an ever-changing STEM field.”

The Pew Research Institute says black workers only make up about nine percent of the STEM workforce.

IBM officials said they are looking to change this number by partnering​ with​ the university and several other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country.

One major component of the partnership is the virtual IBM Skills Academy. The academy will address topics such as high-capacity quantum computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, design thinking, data science, analytics and research projects.

President Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Ed.D., pointed out that the IBM collaboration gives students a competitive advantage in their pursuit of cutting-edge careers in science and technology.

“This partnership is opening doors to new opportunities for our students and will ultimately help to bridge the digital divide,” Ross said.  “The initiative is designed to educate and empower the first generation of quantum computing students and researchers. Giving students and staff access to IBM’s technology will help to position the University as a leading institution for science and technological education.”

Historically, IBM has partnered with ASU in recruiting top students such as alumna Annette Quarles, who most recently was promoted to Vice President of Development, Digital Business Automation at IBM, and alumni ​Janet Sutton and Simuel Sippial who collectively committed more than 50 years of service to IBM before their retirement.

This newest initiative allows that partnership to continue and become more expansive.

Obas said students and faculty are already tapping into IBM’s fast-growing technology resources.

“Through the program, students are interacting with IBM officials and learning about new technologies and innovative careers the company has to offer,” Obas said. “They are being exposed to new technologies that aren’t necessarily being taught in the classroom. As a faculty member, there is a global, three-week workshop I’ve signed up for later this month. These IBM learning and technology resources provide the university with access to industry resources for academic enhancement.”