By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Virginia State University recently opened its first business clothing store on campus; at a time when the nation’s top tech companies are partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The Reginald F. Lewis College of Business opened the store on campus in September, aiming to provide affordable professional attire. The student advisory board of the College of Business operates and merchandises the store, according to a press release.
“The sole purpose of the store is to provide students with inexpensive professional wear and give students the opportunity to exert their entrepreneurial skills,” said Jonathan Young, director of corporate relations and store supervisor.
Racks in the new store contain slacks, suits, ties, shirts, dresses, shoes and more.
“The store is open to everyone; however, the main focus and promotion will be towards our students,” says Stacey Elder, a junior business management major.
Donations and all proceeds help to sustain the store, and support various needs at the college, according to a press release. The store is located in room 310 of Singleton Hall, and operates Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Google initiatives at other HBCUs
But students at VSU are not the only ones who are preparing to switch from the academic to the corporate world. In fact, Google has sent a handful of software engineers to teach at Howard, Hampton University, Fisk, Spelman and Morehouse.
Tech specialists have taught introductory courses. They have also trained students on everything from how to send a professional email to how to make it through a software engineering job interview, which can involve a lot of time solving coding questions at a white board.
Howard University grad Christopher Hocutt, 21, whose friends jokingly call him Mr. Google, recently started at Google full-time. Hocutt is officially Google’s first software engineer hire from a (HBCU), according to Howard Magazine.
Hocutt said the Google In Residence professors convinced him to apply. Hocutt is a graduate of the Googler-in- Residence (GIR) program – an instructional partnership between the tech giant and Howard University’s computer science program aimed at increasing the number of HBCU-educated Google job applicants.
“What they discovered was a lot of people weren’t even applying to Google because we didn’t believe we were skilled enough to do it,” Hocutt added in a Huffington Post interview. “Once we realized we have the skills, we just needed mentorship to make our resume look good, get through the interview, have confidence to try.”
Google software engineer Sabrina Williams, who took a semester away from her Mountain View campus this year to mentor and teach at Howard, is thrilled to see her student becoming a colleague.
“I’m inspired,” Williams said in the Huffington Post. “Change is slow, this is going to take time, but I think what’s interesting about this program is that it’s a different way of attacking the problem of lack of diversity in tech.”
Black female computer science majors were a rare sight 15 years ago at Stanford University, where Williams finished. “I kind of felt awkward so I kind of hid a lot,” she said. “It was very difficult.”
Of her teaching experience at Howard, Williams said, “Teaching is hard.” The hours were grueling but the students enjoyed an experience different from her own. This included taking female computer scientists aside early in the semester, telling them she was available for any questions, and encouraging them to support each other.
Class sizes have doubled in intro courses. Williams had 70 students in one class; about 250 were taught so far this year by Google engineers at all five schools, according to the Huffington Post.
Blacks make up only 1 percent of the technical staffers at Google, but after Jesse Jackson generated reports that showed little workforce diversity in the field, several initiatives were launched including Facebook University.
Intel, meanwhile, has committed $300 million over the next five years toward diversifying its workforce. Apple has a $50 million partnership with non-profits to support women and minority computer science majors.