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From barrier-breaking pioneers like Alice Ball, who was one of the first Black women to earn a master’s degree in chemistry, to modern-day trailblazer Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who played an instrumental role in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, African American women have historically shaped the world of STEM.

Spelman College is on a mission to contribute to the legacy of excellence by educating and empowering the next generation of innovators in the space through a new partnership.

The Atlanta-based HBCU is joining forces with the nonprofit SMASH—an organization centered on eradicating socioeconomic barriers around access to education—to increase racial and gender representation within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Through the multi-year initiative—dubbed SMASH x Spelman—25 high school students will have the opportunity to participate in an immersive STEM-focused program.

The young scholars will learn about the different facets of computer science, have access to college-level workshops, and foster relationships with mentors. As part of the initiative—which includes a two-week residency at Spelman—students will participate in The Future is Intersectional project, a lecture series designed to amplify the contributions Black women have made within the realm of technology throughout history and illustrate how tech will shape the future.

“As a proud Spelman College alumna and graduate of the dual-degree engineering program from Georgia Tech, I know the power of being immersed in Black excellence for a young Black woman, particularly in STEM,” SMASH CEO Danielle Rose said in a statement. “It is a privilege to partner with the country’s leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Tamara Pearson, Ph.D., who leads Spelman’s Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, added the creation of the SMASH x Spelman program is timely as technology is infused into all elements of society. “Black women are critical to the creation of a more equitable future,” she shared. The program is slated to kick off in July.

Initiatives like the one being led by Spelman and SMASH are engines for driving diversity forward in the STEM industry. Studies show Black women make up 2.5 percent of the science and engineering workforce and 2.9 percent of those who earned STEM-focused degrees.


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