Gift from Google will advance equity-focused computer education initiatives at Mason

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George Mason University received a $250,000 gift from Google to be used by the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) for equity-focused computing education. The money will be divided equally between the two colleges.

“We appreciate the generosity of this gift,” said Christopher Carr, CEC associate dean and chief diversity officer. “Technology involves the tools of the future. These funds dedicated to creating a more inclusive education in technology help ensure that our future will be represented by the collective best of us.”

Shekila Melchior, director of CEHD’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said that she’s “excited for a collaboration with Google as we see an ever-increasing need of work in diversity and inclusion in the field of education.”

The portion of the gift going to CEHD will help with the continuation of a teacher externship program created last year with Amazon’s help. The program provides current and potential computer science teachers in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with an opportunity to shadow technology experts and take a companion three-credit graduate-level class at Mason. While the program was started working with Amazon, the gift from Google allows the work to continue through a partnership with Google.

“We are thrilled that our teacher externship will continue and this partnership with Google has made this happen,” said Shirley Hartman, CEHD director of advancement.

Shanika Hope, director of tech education at Google, said the goal was “to provide the information, tools and services that help students build knowledge, fuel curiosity, and prepare for what’s next.”

“George Mason University is committed to tackling the lack of diversity in computing education to foster more equity and representation in tech and tech-enabled careers,” Hope said. “We are excited to support Mason and look forward to supporting systems-level change to broaden participation and transform educational pathways into tech for underrepresented students."

CEC is dividing its part of the gift into a number of significant initiatives, including admission fee waivers, emergency retention scholarships, diversity needs-based scholarships, a graduate pathways program and faculty development. CEC also plans to contribute funds to Mason’s Early Identification Program and GIRL Inc., as well as establishing a CEC-led no-cost coding boot camp for high school students in marginalized communities.

“We will be using the funds in a holistic way in which the impact will be greatest in our efforts to support our marginalized students,” Carr said.