$500K investment in Simmons College aims to bridge diversity, gender gaps in data science

By Alexis Matthews

Simmons College of Kentucky is addressing the diversity gap in the data science field with the help of a $500,000 donation from JP Morgan Chase.

Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby, Simmons College president, said any investment in the city’s only historically Black college is one the greatest.

“This wonderful institution, JP Morgan Chase, is saying we’re going to do everything we can possible, not to block you, but to assist you to sit in some places that the data says Blacks historically don’t sit in; that is in science and technology,” said Cosby.

Alisia McClain is part of the 3% of Black women who work in the data science field. It’s an industry that is widely underrepresented, McClain says, because minorities typically do not feel a sense of belonging in those spaces.

“When I do not see myself, both figuratively and literally, plus I don’t see people who look like me in the field of technology, that is going to lower my interest in going into that field,” said McClain.

The gift aims to pique that interest and transform students’ lives, creating a pathway of opportunity to close the existing wage, race and gender gaps.

“Our students are going to use this to foster growth and development in their lives, but it’s also going to happen for their community,” said Candice Holt, VP of research and planning at Simmons College.

In partnership with Microsoft’s Future of Work initiative, data science will be integrated into the curriculum at Simmons College. The goal is to empower students to use data for social change in their communities.

But, the benefits will also trickle down to Jefferson County Public Schools, whose students receive college credit from the institution. Superintendent Marty Pollio says this investment furthers students’ college readiness and overall academic achievement.

“The future of Simmons College of Kentucky is uniquely tied to JCPS,” said Pollio. “Our successes for our children depends on both of our institutions being successful.”

From students to the community, the initial step to success and change is first believing that it’s possible.

“HBCU’s not only provide and expose Black kids to the realities that segregation and social isolation excludes them from, but also gives them the confidence that they need to say, you know what, I can do this,” said Cosby.