Guest Commentary: National GEM Consortium Strengthens HBCU Tech Professional Pipeline

Shameeka Emanuel is a Program Lead for Google’s Tech Exchange, one of several initiatives the computer science corporation is piloting to build diversity among its professional ranks. She is one of the thousands of HBCU graduates making her mark as a distinguished professional in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Most of her story is the result of hard work and self-confidence. But like many college students, she also earned a little help along the way from an organization invested in the future of our brightest leaders and innovators.

Emanuel is an alumna of the National GEM Consortium and its fellowship program. The consortium is a nonprofit organization that provides exceptional scholars from underrepresented communities with full-tuition STEM scholarships at the graduate level, paid internships, and high, entry-level job placement at the IT companies and research institutions in its Consortium, such as Intel, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Northrup Grumman, Adobe and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

After graduating from Howard, the GEM Fellowship enabled her to attain her Master’s in Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University. After 11 years at Intel, she is now Program Lead for Tech Exchange at Google, where she sets the vision for the program while working with universities to build an immersive academic computer science experience.

Emanuel, who leads GEM’s alumni group, explained what the GEM Fellowship meant to her: “GEM gave me freedom! Many of the coveted advisers in graduate school run out of funding for assistantships. Coming into graduate school with your own money unlocks more opportunities to work in certain labs or collaborate on key research topics. It also allowed me to fully focus on my studies and take advantage of utilizing my network by spending more time with my peers collaborating.”

GEM is the secret weapon IT companies use to win the STEM talent war. GEM Fellows have an average GPA of 3.5. Corporate executives and university officials from Virginia Tech, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Northrop Grumman, Adobe, Space X, USC, Georgia Tech, Lockheed Martin, Cal Poly Tech, Boeing, Claremont McKenna, Aerospace, and many others attended the National GEM Consortium annual conference at L.A.’s Sheraton Hotel September 13-15. Their purpose was to meet the more than 200 students and GEM Fellows during the conference’s employer fair.

Shameeka added that HBCU students interested in STEM-related careers, “Should pursue an advanced degree because it will help give your career the jump start it needs. You will be able to dive deeper into the subject matter in graduate school and you will be poised for leadership roles very early in your career. Having this extra credential will be useful whether you start your own company or join a company.” More than 50 percent of GEM Fellows are African-American.

Michael A. Greene, GEM’s Chairman of the Board, and Intel Vice President and General Manager, stated: “The National GEM Consortium is one of Intel’s valued partnerships. Each year we sponsor approximately 30 Fellows. The National GEM Consortium plays an important role in helping us to find the best and brightest talent to fuel our innovation engine.”

Over the last 40 years, GEM’s alumni have included thousands of highly accomplished African-Americans, such as:

  • Reggie Van Lee, former EVP of Booz Allen Hamilton, who was honored by President Obama and received GEM’s Alumni Leadership award for diversity and inclusion during the conference gala

  • Powtawche Williams Valerino, NASA Senior Scientist, who was recently honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences

  • Ursula Burns, former Xerox CEO, now an Uber board member

  • Nashlie Sephus, who as Chief Technology Officer for a Black startup, built the tech for the company, which was sold to Amazon ̶ before she was 30 years-old

  • Karolyn Young, a Principal Director at Aerospace Corporation

GEM has filled tech’s pipeline with high-achieving diverse talent (more than 4,000) since its inception in 1976. Dr. Eric D. Evans, Director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and recipient of this year’s Laboratory Leadership Award noted: “The National GEM Consortium is a critically important part of our diversity and inclusion programs. GEM has connected us to a much wider pool of top talent pursuing STEM-related degrees.”

Mark Mills is CEO of IMDC in Beverly Hills, CA.