IU senior JeVante Qaiyim said he saw a need as a student of color at IU because he felt he did not have access to the resources he needed to succeed, so came up with Underrepresented Students in Tech, or UnT, in fall 2020.
UnT is an initiative for minority students in tech to come together as a community and gain equitable access to internship opportunities, support with technical interviews and building confidence among the students.
Treon D. McClendon, associate director of the Luddy Living Learning Center and staff liaison for UnT, recognizes the need for such initiatives on campus.
“When it comes to diversity, everyone must do their part,” McClendon said. “The students' voices matter, and we need to be there as a resource for them through their time at IU.”
On a large campus such as IU with more than 40,000 undergraduate students as of 2020, it can be difficult for minority students to feel like they belong, especially in the tech field. A study by the co-founder of BeamJobs shows that about 67% of U.S. tech companies are made up of less than 5% of Black employees.
Qaiyim reached out to Tiana Iruoje, director of student engagement, and representatives of the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, and they developed the idea together.
UnT also offers support with career guidance and sessions on how to leverage a career in Tech.
“It is important that students of color see people who look like them in tech and be given the opportunity to interact with those people” Iruoje said. “It tells them that they are welcome in the field and can thrive.”
This initiative is meant to be a place where students share resources in tech and also a bridge between minority students and the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering administration, Iruoje said.
She said the initiative is special because it allows for informatics, computing and engineering students to voice their needs and concerns to informatics, computing and engineering staff.
The initiative has had various online events including a round table talks with an all Black tech panel. These events are all student-led and involve sessions such as thriving people of color in tech or tips from seniors on what they wish they had known at IU and specifically at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.
Javien Bigbee, an IU freshman who joined the UnT program in the fall, said it is like a second home for him.
“I am in the Luddy LLC and I feel connected to Luddy, but there are many other minority students out there who do not get that,” Bigbee said. “This is a place where minorities in tech can be confident that they have someone out there for them.”
McClendon said the group is important for students of color because they need to feel supported and represented in tech.
“We are constantly advocating and being a resource for our students,” McClendon said, “We are here to give support to our students because being a minority on a collegiate campus, that support can sometimes determine whether you get your degree at the end of four years or not.”
Iruoje said minorities who are recruited into the informatics, computing and engineering school are not just to check a box. They plan to be consistent with their support throughout the students’ years on campus.
“It’s a privilege to have students trust us so much that they come to us when they have an ask or a need and we provide the space for that need,” Iruoje said.