COOKEVILLE — Women and minority students now have more incentive to attend Tennessee Tech University.
Tech has been awarded $50,000 from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation for diversity scholarships for computer science and business information technology. The funding includes a $26,000 Women and Minorities in Computing scholarship endowment and four $1,500 scholarships to be renewed every four years as the endowment builds.
“With scholarships like this, department chairs and faculty can go out and recruit students with the promise they will get money if they come,” said Tracey Duncan, director of corporate and foundation relations at Tech.
“I feel relieved knowing that there are opportunities out there and that I’m not having to compete against other people for one scholarship,” said Destiny Mayes, a freshman business major.
The four scholarships will be awarded to four students — two from computer science and two from business information technology — as soon as possible.
“We want to change our mindset on how we recruit with these dollars,” said Jerry Gannod, chairperson of Tech’s computer science department. “The goal here is to attract new students who wouldn’t have normally considered TTU as a destination.”
At Tech, computer science enrollment by female students has been below the national average for several years. From 2012-2015, enrollment by females was approximately eight percent.
“As a woman who has taught programming classes and advanced analytic classes, if there were 20 students in the class, there may be three female students,” said Deborah Ballou, an associate professor in decision sciences and management. “I see these scholarships as an opportunity to increase that ratio and allow women to tackle these technical fields that are full of employment opportunities.”
In 2016, computer science enrollment by female students rose to approximately 11.5 percent with the most recent enrollment rising to 12 percent.
“Companies have been coming to us and they want a more diverse workforce,” said Gannod. “They want to hire from us so they want us to get to that next level of getting towards both gender and racial equity in our programs.”
Gannod would like to use the athletics model where a student is recruited and given a scholarship rather than just given a scholarship after they enroll at Tech.
“There are top-tier students who are out there that are being recruited by everyone. We want to get them early,” said Gannod. “I envision things like a signing day like they have in athletics.”
The goal is to see a continual five to seven percent increase in females and minorities enrolling in computer science and business information technology each year.
Gannod says by creating partnerships with companies like BlueCross Blue Shield, Tech should be able to achieve a target level of 20 percent of female enrollment by 2023.
“We value student success and the return on investment students get at the university. By doing something like this, we are holding to those values,” said Gannod. “We aspire to send them off into a diverse workforce, we should try to mirror that in our makeup.”
Students interested in applying for the scholarships should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (931) 372-6159.