Bank of America is making a $1 million anchor grant to Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) College of Engineering. The grant will support ongoing programs that expand access for students to pursue a technology education, engage thousands of K-12 students in engineering outreach experiences and increase teacher participation in professional development sessions.
This grant is the latest milestone in a partnership to increase access and participation in high-value engineering, data science and computer science education at VCU and partnering institutions. Both Bank of America and VCU Engineering believe it is essential for the academic community and business community to collaborate on many levels to expand technology education pathways and create programs to ensure the success of students from diverse communities.
“VCU has created a highly effective program to develop and prepare students for jobs of the future,” said Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America. “Digital technologies have never been more in demand. Our digital economy necessitates an expansion in career opportunities in computer science and data analytics so that everyone can participate.”
The VCU College of Engineering is committed to advancing technology education opportunities for non-traditional students, including first-generation college students and those from communities of color. Anchor grant funds will help scale up initiatives to increase the talent pool of data scientists, engineers, software developers and information security specialists. VCU College of Engineering diversity and inclusion efforts have garnered national recognition, including certification as a top 100 minority degree producer from “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education,” and a Bronze award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Diversity Recognition Program, the highest level awarded in 2019.
“We hope this grant from Bank of America is another call to action across the RVA region, where public-private partnerships provide access to the opportunities that a college education can provide,” said Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin, Jr. Dean of the VCU College of Engineering. “Our approach is to work with public school systems, other non-profits, community colleges, the VCU School of Education and local businesses to expand existing educational pathways throughout the K-12 and higher-ed continuum.”
This latest grant is part of an ongoing partnership between Bank of America and the VCU College of Engineering that began with a $500,000 grant in 2007 to support the construction of the College of Engineering East Hall and continued with a $100,000 donation in 2020. The university and Bank of America’s Global Technology & Operations team have built a growing partnership focused on inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in STEM. In addition to funding support, VCU faculty and staff, together with Bank of America professionals, team up with local high schools and tech education programs, including CodeVA and the Virginia National Center for Women & Information Technology chapter.
The donation is aligned to Bank of America’s $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. The initiative focuses on four pillars including healthcare, jobs and reskilling, small businesses, and housing.
“We are committed to supporting the communities we serve, and this is a terrific example of how we follow through on that promise,” said Victor Branch, Richmond market president for Bank of America. “The VCU programs this grant will fund will positively impact minority students of all ages in the Richmond region, helping to get them on an education track that will position them well for career opportunities in technology fields when they’re ready to enter the workforce.”
“More and more, we are seeing technology education and acquisition of digital skills as essential competencies in a lifetime process of learning,” Boyan added. “Recent reports from the Governor’s STEM Commission, GoVirginia, the Federal Reserve and others highlight the need for programs that have an impact at the student level. Bank of America recognizes the importance of building and retaining a 21st-century, technology-competent workforce in central Virginia. We are glad to have them as our partner.”