The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Information Science and Technology (IS&T) is creating a pathway for more students to receive mentorship and academic opportunities in information technology (IT), thanks to a $100,000 grant from Verizon. The funding will extend over the next three years.The “UNO IT Pathways Program” is a new program for sixth through twelfth grade students to find mentorship and foster a continuous interest in IT from an early age. With an emphasis on students from underrepresented groups in IT, the Verizon-funded program will help create a pathway for students to discover IT through established iSTEM youth programs at IS&T as well as a one-on-one mentorship with current IS&T students.
Fostering an interest in students has become an increasing priority for our college, especially in students who might look at the current work force and wonder if they fit into the typical student profile. Thanks to the generous support from Verizon, we are able to better connect the many iSTEM youth programs we host and create a solid pathway for students to follow and foster their career dreams in IT.
– Deepak Khazanchi, Ph.D.
“Fostering an interest in students has become an increasing priority for our college, especially in students who might look at the current work force and wonder if they fit into the typical student profile,” Deepak Khazanchi Ph.D., principal investigator for the Verizon grant and associate dean of the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Information Science and Technology said. “Thanks to the generous support from Verizon, we are able to better connect the many iSTEM youth programs we host and create a solid pathway for students to follow and foster their career dreams in IT.”
The Pathways program will invest in 30 – 35 students in its first year, primarily focusing on 7th and 8th grade students from low economic communities and/or from underrepresented groups in tech. The students will have the opportunity to attend IS&T’s student initiatives, as well as meet monthly with an IS&T mentor who will connect the student with corporate visits and IT development. What’s more, a “CIST Mentorship App” will be developed, providing resources for mentors and mentees, lesson plans, and events the pairs can attend together – ultimately creating a way to keep a history of interactions.
“We want to give students the power to pave their own path to IT while still having a strong source of encouragement on their side,” Daniel Stokes, iSTEM program coordinator at IS&T. “By connecting role models from IS&T directly to our community, we hope to strengthen interests in IT and give these students more opportunities to explore their interests.”
IS&T hosts approximately nine annual events for students from fifth grade through twelfth, depending on the year and funding for each program:
- ISTEM After School: 5th – 8th grade afterschool program
- Techademy: 6th – 11th grade summer camps hosted at IS&T
- CodeCrush: 8th – 9th grade immersion experiences
- High School Internships: 10th grade – 12th grade summer internship program
- IT Innovation Cup: 9th grade – 12th grade year-long competition
- NULLify CTF: 9th grade – 12th grade cybersecurity hackathon
- Computer Science Quiz Bowl: 9th – 12th grade coding competition
- GenCyber: National Science Foundation-funded Cybersecurity program for middle and high school students.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project that information technology occupations are projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, adding 531,200 new jobs. In Nebraska alone, the state’s Department of Labor projected in 2019 that there will be more than 34,000 annual openings in high-skill, high-demand, high wage jobs in the coming years; many of which are in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and require higher education. Because of this demand, focus on computer science education in our K – 12 schools is more important than ever.
“There is an ever-urgent call for a diverse tech workforce and Verizon is committed to creating an inclusive space for everyone looking to explore their interest in information technology,” Eli Veenendaal, Director of State Government Affairs at Verizon said. “Verizon is proud to partner with the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Information Science and Technology on the IT Pathways Program. This partnership will provide a guiding light for youth in our community to find their way to promising careers.”
IS&T is currently accepting applications for students in the UNO IT Pathways Program. Guardians and teachers can learn more here: https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-information-science-and-technology/engagement/youth-mentorship-program.php
About UNO’s College of Information Science and Technology
The College of Information Science and Technology (IS&T) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha represents the joint efforts of the University of Nebraska, the State of Nebraska, and private industry to address the growing global needs for knowledgeable professionals in Information Technology (IT). The College was established at UNO in 1996 to meet the growing demand for IT graduates in the Omaha metropolitan and surrounding area.