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Cisco Co-Innovating With Historically Black Colleges and Universities

By Francine Katsoudas

Cisco Co-Innovating With Historically Black Colleges and Universities

By Francine Katsoudas

Published 06-26-24

Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.

A future defined by AI, hyper security, and constant change has brought into focus the importance of ensuring subsets of our world’s population aren’t left behind. We need to be diligent in bringing people along and to do this we are pursuing what we at Cisco can meaningfully influence – using our technology, our people, and our networks to help close the digital divide. Every individual has the right to thrive in our increasingly connected world, and four years ago Cisco codified this belief with our Social Justice Beliefs and Our Commitment to Action – our plan to actively dismantle barriers and create opportunities for underrepresented communities around the world.

As part of this, we promised to be bold and deliberate in our support of the Black community and to help Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) flourish. America’s HBCUs are treasured institutions and cornerstones of educational excellence and cultural heritage in our country. In 2020 we showed our commitment to their future with a $150 million donation over 5 years for STEM education programs and technology modernization.

Co-innovating with HBCUs for lasting change

While Cisco’s is the single largest donation from a corporation in the history of HBCUs, our support is more than financial. We are committed to co-innovating with HBCUs to create lasting change, focusing on four foundational areas:

  • supporting Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) students
  • building technological excellence
  • promoting success before and beyond graduation
  • advancing information sharing and engagement

Together for three years now, we have been sowing seeds of innovation, inclusion, and inspiration to help Black leaders prepare to thrive in the AI era. To date, Cisco and HBCUs worked side by side with an ecosystem of Partner organizations, each leveraging unique strengths, and all dedicated to driving systemic change. Together, we:

  • donated $66 million in services and software to HBCUs
  • completed 46 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) assessments and 30 technology installations at HBCUs
  • (in doing above) preserved $1.5 billion in HBCU Title IV funding through services and software needed for the required NIST compliance
  • launched the Cisco Cyber Academy at Denmark Technical Institute, a two-year HBCU located in rural Bamberg County, South Carolina.

As our partnerships with HBCUs and partner organizations mature and strengthen, our impact expands. We are looking forward to sharing an equally significant list of achievements in our fourth year!

Approaching challenges from an ecosystem perspective

More than anything, our work with HBCUs has shown the progress and possibilities we create when we approach challenges from an ecosystem perspective. The interconnectedness of our world means we are all diminished by social injustice, and that we all play a role in building a more just and inclusive future. Bringing together an ecosystem of Cisco Partners has been critical to providing HBCUs the support they need by assessing participating schools’ IT infrastructures, recommending upgrades, and donating services and equipment to ensure schools have the latest cybersecurity technology

An Inspiring Success Story: Denmark Tech’s ecosystem at work

Hearing directly from Denmark Tech President and CEO, Dr. Willie L. Todd Jr. makes what we’re doing even more compelling.

A brighter future is already evident in the Denmark Tech region – one which has historically seen limited jobs and educational opportunities. Dr. Todd focuses on his collaboration with Cisco and connections across our partner ecosystem to make sure the success story continues.

Working with Procellis, a member of the African American Cisco Partner Community (AACPC), Cisco donated equipment and services to upgrade Denmark Tech’s IT infrastructure to ensure they could meet NIST cybersecurity standards.

Cisco also connected Denmark Tech with Fusion Cyber, a company that collaborates with colleges and universities to offer comprehensive online cybersecurity training.

This career-oriented program encompasses certification, mentorship, and job coaching to equip students for careers in cybersecurity. Dr. Todd saw how the program could change the trajectory of his students’ lives and the surrounding communities they serve. He launched the training in 2021 to upskill students for jobs in the cybersecurity field, helping them create generational wealth. To date, the program has graduated 59 students including veterans, women, and other underserved groups, and plans to expand are in the works. Graduates of the program can stay in their community, positively impacting the local economy and bringing a renewed sense of hope and optimism to the region.

Security and the workforce of the future – the risks and rewards of AI

Globalization, digitization, and AI advancements have made our world progressively interconnected. While the benefits of AI are incredible to consider, so are the threats. Cybersecurity is now foundational to a safe and prosperous future for organizations around the world – including HBCUs. The World Economic Forum estimates that 3 – 4 million cybersecurity experts are needed to support the current global economy, but a critical shortage of cybersecurity specialists is creating a gap that puts the world’s digital assets at risk. Denmark Technical College is the 27th HBCU offering Cisco’s Networking Academy curriculum with programs in networking, cybersecurity, Python, and data science – all designed to build job-ready skills so that faculty and staff can both benefit from the AI economy and help protect it.

We continue to challenge ourselves to drive greater social impact knowing that with every person we train, every school we connect, every college we enable, and every community we empower, we are advancing Cisco’s Purpose to power an inclusive future for all – because inclusivity is not just a societal ideal, but a fundamental human right.

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