Bennett College was founded in 1873 in the basement of St. Matthews Methodist Episcopal Church in Greensboro, NC. They are one of only two all-women, Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States — and their mission is to prepare “women of color through a transformative liberal arts education to lead with purpose, integrity, and a strong sense of self-worth.” I encourage you to read more about their rich “herstory” in honor of Women’s History Month.
At Cisco, we’ve taken considerable steps to fight injustice and inequity around the world. One of the most powerful examples of the bold actions we’re taking is our $150 million commitment to preserve the legacy and sustainability of HBCUs through Social Justice Action 8.
While that commitment includes driving technology modernization and improving STEM education at HBCUs, Cisco is actively investing into the future of their students as well — and I am proud to say that those investments continued earlier this month at Bennett College.
We are building a bridge with Bennett College
Bennett College has been a private, four-year historically black liberal arts college for women since 1926. Over the course of our relationship, we have worked to establish Bennett College as a Networking Academy, provided student recruiting support, offered guidance on funding grants, and helped enhance their network security for remote learning through a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Assessment. In addition, Bennett College has requested mentorship, job shadowing, and guest lectures by Cisco professionals to prepare Bennett students for life after college. These opportunities align with Action 8 initiatives and will enable Cisco to continue to support the sustainability and legacy of Bennett College.
Women of color often face racism and discrimination in academic and professional environments. HBCUs like Bennett College offer the advantage of providing a supportive, inclusive, and justice-oriented approach to education. Bennett College operationalizes student support through special convocations, lectures, and seminars that comprise their Academic Cultural Enrichment Series (ACES) series, which is designed to enhance the cultural and intellectual development of the student population. Cisco’s commitment to delivering student success, accelerating young AA/B talent, and making a lasting impact for generations to come provides an excellent foundation for a symbiotic partnership with Bennett College and augments student support.
As the Executive Sponsor for Bennett College, I worked with Wesley Carter, CX Sr. Program Manager, and Bennett College to create an ACES event that delivered an important message to Bennett’s liberal arts students:
You don’t have to major in the computer sciences field to be valuable to a technology company like Cisco!
It’s a powerful message, and one that we can continually build upon to show Bennett students that even entry-level digital and cybersecurity skills can enhance their competitive edge, no matter what they choose for their career path. Dr. Santiba Campbell, Director of Academic Special Initiatives for Bennett College, suggested an all-woman panel and focus on liberal arts, instead of STEM, because Bennett College is predominately a liberal arts college.
An overview of our Women in Cisco Panel Discussion in March of 2023
One of the most important aspects of this event was the evidence-based approach. It was kicked off by our own Shaina Tamburr, VP, CX Programs & Compliance, and featured a panel of diverse, liberal arts-educated, successful women from different areas within Cisco — ranging from project management to sales and marketing. These successful women came together to share their unique career stories and life experiences, as well as welcome Bennett College’s liberal arts students to engage with Cisco. We doubled down on Cisco’s commitment to student success by inviting our Emerging Talent Diversity Engagement Team to create a portal specifically for students to upload their resume and be considered for future Cisco opportunities!
The connection between the speakers and students was palpable — and after sharing their stories, our panelists had a chance to answer these insightful questions in front of students:
- What has been the most significant barrier in your career?
- How have mentors helped you grow as a leader? What was your path to get there?
- What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
As the event concluded, the students were provided with contact information for all the panelists so they could reach out and ask questions to prepare themselves for a career in the tech industry.
This was an incredible event for Bennett College
The Women in Cisco event was a success for Bennett College because it provided students with valuable insights into working in the tech industry, as well as an opportunity to network with successful liberal arts majors — including two alumnae from Bennett College!
But most of all, this was a great step in strengthening the relationship between Bennett College and Cisco:
“I hope both of you are doing well and still glowing from a great experience Friday at Bennett College! Thank you for all of the hard work in planning, organizing and communicating for the Women in Cisco ACES panel. I look forward to more opportunities and sponsorships for us to work together.”
— Dr. Santiba Campbell, Director of Academic Special Initiatives, Bennett College
I am genuinely proud to be part of a company that is committed to not only creating opportunity and exposure in the IT field to non-technical students, but also to the strategic recovery, sustainability, and legacy of HBCUs like Bennett College.
Let’s continue to work together to power an inclusive future for all by identifying more ways to transform our beliefs into action, especially as we celebrate Women’s History Month.
Register now for our upcoming Women Rock-IT event to learn how
amazing women are using technology to address climate change.
April 27th, 2023