An Immersive Experience For HBCU Scholars at Apple

A select group of HBCU students underwent an immersive experience at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters this week.

The Immersion Experience program is the result of a partnership between Apple and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to prepares these students for upcoming internships with Apple.

“We’ve had a wonderful opportunity so far, and we got to speak with executives and get a tour of the campus. We also met with Ambassador Andrew Young yesterday—it’s been a really great time,” said Haley Hall, a junior at Howard University, and marketing major.

Garston Seneza, a junior at Philander Smith College and a computer science and mathematics major also said the students were given a tour around the Apple campus and also met with mentors.

Denise Young-Smith, vice president for worldwide human resources, Apple, spoke with Black Enterprise on the significance of the program.

“Historically black colleges and universities are a treasure and a treasure talent pool that for whatever reasons; proximity, culture…has been somewhat less than minimally tapped by the tech industry,” said Young-Smith.

“Being an HBCU graduate myself, I understand this depth of talent that many companies, unfortunately, don’t get to see…given that most HBCUs are geographically located in the southeastern [part of the U.S.],” she said.

Young-Smith was familiar with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund saying the organization has “a good reputation” and “solid board leadership.” With TMCF, Apple wanted to understand why great students coming from the several HBCU engineering schools, such as Tuskegee and Howard, were not getting exposure and access to Silicon Valley.

“We decided to embark on a long-term partnership,” says Young-Smith.” We agreed to an apprenticeship that encompassed many facets that would not help just Apple, but helps the students and some of the really focused faculty members that we met, and helps the tech industry as a whole.”

M. Scott Lilly, vice president of programs and president of the Opportunity Finance Corporation (OFC), at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, also spoke about this collaborative effort.

“I look at this program as a startup; it’s inaugural not just for Apple but for us,” says Lilly. He says the partnership was ideal because “we pride ourselves in being nimble and quick” in alignment with “the culture of Apple.”

The decision was made to widen the pool of potential interns to include other majors besides computer science. The idea is to show as many students as possible that dreams of working for a company such as Apple are

“The idea here is to spark the idea that first of all this is attainable. Silicon Valley is Apple—an industry leader,” says Lilly. He stressed how important it was for other students to see their peers who may have come from impoverished neighborhoods have such opportunities with companies such as Apple.

Young-Smith says that one key element of the program focuses on the lack of cultural familiarity.

“Some of the students never traveled outside of their home radius and didn’t have the exposure to high technology and the high-performance, fast-paced culture that exists [at] Apple and in other tech companies,” she says. Additionally,“The students are getting exposed to key executives, how we think about the design of our products…,” says Young-Smith.

Lilly says another major aspect of the program is continuous feedback from the students. “Adjustments [will be made] based on feedback. This is not something we are going to do the same way year after year.” Lilly says they would love to grow the program by 50% next year.

“It really is an immersive week designed to help them succeed when they come back for their internship, and they will go back to their campuses and be ambassadors for Apple,”
Young-Smith says.

For her internship, Hall will work in HR with employment engagement and Seneza will intern with software engineering this summer.

Source: Black Enterprise