By Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President and CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund
Pipelines are important to the energy sector. Similar to how oil and gas are transported safely from fields to refineries, the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program at Georgia’s Fort Valley State University has been an education pipeline identifying and developing under-represented students (females and professionals of color) to enter the energy sector and other science and technology fields for over 30 years.
Originally founded in 1983 with federal funding to four Historically Black Colleges and Universities, CDEP is currently the only dual-degree program training minority and female students for careers in energy.
In partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, USA Funds® has supported 19 students as TMCF-USA Funds Scholars. Since 2013-2014, 10 of those students have been enrolled in CDEP, aiming to join graduates with an impressive list of careers in STEM fields:
- 151 mathematicians.
- 97 engineers.
- 51 chemists.
- 36 geologists/geophysicists.
- 23 biologists.
- Eight health physicists.
These graduates earned degrees at historically black FVSU and also at other partner institutions, including:
- Georgia Tech University.
- Pennsylvania State University.
- University of Arkansas.
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
- University of Texas at Austin.
Participating students earn their first bachelor’s degree from FVSU with scholarship support from USA Funds, and a second degree from a partner institution, while also completing internships with top companies and government agencies in the field.
Encouraging STEM interest
For USA Funds Scholar Danesha Hunter, CDEP helped her find direction in life. “I struggled to find my place in the world as the daughter of a single, African-American mother of three in Anchorage, Alaska,” she says. “I discovered my love of math and science through this program at 14.”
Many CDEP participants begin their STEM journey as high school students in FVSU’s Pre-College Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Academy, or M-SEA. Initially recruited in eighth grade, successful M-SEA students may formally apply for CDEP as seniors in high school.
“My college journey would not be possible without CDEP,” adds Danesha, who recently graduated from FVSU and will begin studies at UNLV in health physics this fall. “CDEP and its partners are helping me achieve my dreams.”
Dominic Brooks, a USA Funds Scholar and FVSU honors graduate in chemistry, offered a similar assessment. “CDEP has become the foundation of the life I dream of living by providing the structure and guidance I needed to stay on track,” Dominic says. “I will take everything I have learned with me at FVSU to the University of Arkansas to earn my second degree.”
CDEP is the brainchild of Isaac Crumbly, associate vice president for career and collaborative programs at FVSU. Having worked in cotton fields as a youth before earning his doctoral degree in botany, Dr. Crumbly has dedicated his career to helping young people pursue careers in science and technology.
Partnering with employers
In addition to its focus on academic preparation, CDEP has formed industry partnerships with leading energy sector organizations, including:
- AERA Energy.
- AGL Resources.
- Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
- Conoco Phillips.
- U.S. Department of Energy.
- U.S. Geological Survey.
- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“I have interned with AERA Energy for three consecutive years and learned about the plentiful opportunities in engineering and the oil and gas industry,” says Ashley Davis, a senior electrical engineering major at Georgia Tech with a math degree from FVSU. “CDEP introduced me to many different aspects of electrical engineering, which allowed me to explore options and decide the direction I want my career to go.”
CDEP demonstrates the impact of long-term commitment to youth in creating genuine opportunities. The success of M-SEA and CDEP students led to FVSU’s being ranked the No. 1 university in the nation for graduating African-Americans with degrees in mathematics and statistics in 2011, 2014 and 2015, according to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
The 10 students supported by CDEP’s three-year-old partnership with TMCF and USA Funds are clear about the value of the STEM pipeline created at FVSU. At this time, seven TMCF-USA Funds Scholars have graduated from FVSU and are continuing the program at partner universities. As TMCF-USA Funds Scholars transition from FVSU to their second degree, TMCF and USA Funds support additional students.
“Thanks to CDEP’s financial support, I can focus on my schoolwork,” says Shivam Patel, also attending Georgia Tech after completing a math degree at FVSU. “CDEP has opened the door to make my goals achievable.”