Microsoft Gives $15 Million in Software to Help Upgrade Technology at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Microsoft’s Bruce Brooks (right) with U.S. Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (left) (D-Tex.) and Elijah E. Cummings (center ) (D-Md.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, at a press conference announcing Microsoft’s $15 million grant. Click image for high-res version.

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 26, 2003 — As people across the United States celebrate African-Americans’ past during Black History Month, Microsoft today made an historic investment in the future of the African-American community with a US$15 million software grant to launch the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund (TMSF) Technology Initiative.

The new TMSF Technology Initiative is intended to raise $100 million over the next five years to upgrade technology at America’s Historically Black Public Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to make technology an integral part of the education the schools provide and to ensure graduates have the skills they need to succeed in today’s information-based economy. The Microsoft grant is the first donation to the new initiative, and the largest contribution in the 16-year history of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund.

“Microsoft’s support is critically important to the long-term technology goals of our 45 member schools and their ability to incorporate technology into their education and service missions,”
said Dwayne Ashley, the fund’s president.
“We hope that Microsoft’s donation and the technology expertise they’re providing will be a catalyst to help us secure additional funding from other corporations that are committed to ensuring improved technology programs in public HBCUs.”

Ashley accepted the Microsoft donation at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members were instrumental in bringing the TMSF Technology Initiative to the attention of Microsoft officials and facilitating the $15 million software grant. U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that the TMSF Technology Initiative and Microsoft’s inaugural grant will play a critical role in preparing HBCU students for the professional challenges they will face when they graduate.

“The Congressional Black Caucus is proud of its partnership with Microsoft and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund,”
Cummings said.
“Historically Black Colleges and Universities have long been the training ground for African-American scholars and professionals. This grant will create a bridge that will help close the digital divide in higher education and provide the necessary tools HBCUs need to compete in today’s global economy.”

Unique Fund for Black Schools

Since its inception in 1987, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund has provided $20 million in merit-based scholarships, internships, leadership training and other programmatic support to more than 4,400 students at its 45 member schools. Named for Thurgood Marshall, the lawyer who won the landmark civil rights case that ended public school segregation and the first African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, TMSF is the only national organization of its type that provides such support to students at the nation’s public Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The value of those institutions, and the support they receive from TMSF, is apparent from the results. TMSF-member schools graduate more than 58 percent of the African-American public schoolteachers and 56 percent of the African-American lawyers in the United States. Fifty-five percent of all TMSF-member school graduates enroll in a professional or graduate school, and 43 percent of African-Americans who earn Ph.Ds attend HBCUs. Alumni of TMSF-member schools include outstanding leaders in virtually every field and profession, as well as a long list of celebrities such as businesswoman and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, opera star Jessye Norman and CBS News
“60 Minutes”
correspondent Ed Bradley.

Many Great Minds, Full of Potential

Sean Jackman, a Howard University computer science student who has spent two summers as an intern at Microsoft, has seen first-hand how vital TMSF scholarships and support have been to many of his classmates.

“For many people, a scholarship is the only way they can afford to attend a good university. Without the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, many great minds that are full of potential would not have the opportunity to fully develop,”
Jackman said.
“It is even more crucial for young people of color, many of whom are at a disadvantage economically. The Fund enables them to get an education that will help them fulfill their dreams.”

Increasingly, Americans live and work in an information-based economy that relies on technology to locate, communicate, interpret and store information. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 percent of all U.S. workers–from executives in high-rise office buildings to factory workers on the shop floor–now routinely use some kind of computing device and/or the Internet to perform their jobs. Bruce Brooks, director of Microsoft Community Affairs, said that Microsoft works consistently to help diverse students achieve their educational goals and acquire the professional skills they need to succeed in today’s technology-driven economy.

“Microsoft is committed to helping individuals and organizations realize their full potential. In today’s world, having access to technology and knowing how to use it effectively is often a vital component of that goal,”
Brooks said.
“With this $15 million software grant to the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, Microsoft is not only giving students the support they need to achieve their own dreams, but also helping them acquire skills that will allow them to make a real difference in the lives of other people.”

Technology Initiative Helps Build Capacity

Along with scholarships and programmatic support for students, TMSF also provides capacity building support for its 45 member schools, which educate 215,000 students annually. The TMSF Technology Initiative is one example of that support.

Schools that are interested in receiving a portion of the Microsoft grant, and subsequent grants that will be part of the five-year TMSF Technology Initiative, will be required to submit detailed plans explaining how they would use the technology. Those proposals will be evaluated by a technical advisory committee made up of TMSF staff, educators and representatives from leading technology companies like Microsoft and IBM. TMSF will award technology grants to the schools that are best prepared to use the software and to implement solutions that will benefit students, faculty and administration. Even the applications from schools that don’t receive technology grants initially will be useful. They will provide additional information about the technology needs of member schools, which will help TMSF tailor solicitations to other corporate donors.

Ashley said capacity building at member schools has become a primary goal for TMSF, which is why the $15 million software grant from Microsoft is so important. The Microsoft grant not only kicks off the TMSF Technology Initiative with a donation equal to 15 percent of the organization’s five-year goal, it also serves as a strong catalyst to help TMSF secure funding and technology grants from other corporations. In working with TMSF on a plan to manage its donation, Microsoft also helped the organization develop a framework for accurately assessing the technology needs of its member schools.

Brooks said that as new donors come on board, there will be opportunities for them to serve on the technical advisory committee, which serves a larger purpose for TMSF and its member schools.

“This gives Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund the chance to form a national committee that will help shape technology thought and provide technology leadership for all of the HBCU campuses it serves,”
Brooks said.
“It allows TMSF to involve important industry players in an active, ongoing way, and it offers corporate donors the chance keep participating in the good work TMSF is doing.”

Ashley said technology solutions proposed by member schools may range from methods for improving computer-to-student ratios–TMSF member schools currently average one computer for every six students–to strategies for strengthening the schools’ technology infrastructure and communications. He said the five-year TMSF Technology Initiative is focused on three goals:

  • Improve the teaching capacity of member schools by integrating technology support in every aspect of the educational process;

  • Improve employment opportunities for students by making sure they have the technical skills to excel in the workplace; and

  • Eliminate the digital divide that exists between HBCU and majority schools.

Neighboring Communities Benefit

Ashley said the TMSF Technology Initiative also will provide great benefits for the communities around the campuses.
“These are often underserved communities, so providing more access to better technology not only benefits students and faculty, but also people from the community who have the opportunity to use university libraries and other resources,”
he said.

Brooks said that the Microsoft Giving program, established in 1983, is aimed at providing underserved communities with the resources they need to help realize their full potential by supporting innovative programs and projects that enhance technology access, strengthen nonprofits through technology, diversify the technology workforce and build community. In fiscal year 2002, Microsoft gave $39.9 million in cash and $207 million in software donations to more than 5,000 non-profit organizations. In addition, Microsoft supports its employees’ individual acts of giving and the organizations that inspire them by matching, dollar for dollar, employee charitable contributions up to $12,000 per employee annually.

“At Microsoft, we believe absolutely in the power of technology to change lives and strengthen communities,”
Brooks said.
“We’ve seen it happen all over the world. It’s one of the reasons we’re so pleased to work with TMSF to enhance the technology capacity of historically black colleges and universities. We know how important the work we do together today will be to generations of African-Americans.”

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