Cisco is bringing its Social Justice blueprint to life for HBCUs

The last several years were turbulent for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Student displacements due to the pandemic, cyberattacks, and aging infrastructure have created an unprecedented need for financial and technical support. When we announced Cisco’s Social Justice blueprint in September 2020, we promised to be bold and deliberate in our support of the Black community – including a resolute commitment to help HBCUs recover and flourish post-COVID. We showed the depth of our intent in 2021 with our pledge of $150 million to help the recovery and resiliency of HBCUs in the United States. This is the largest corporate investment of its kind in HBCU history, and we’re already putting this funding to work in partnership with Student Freedom Initiative. Our impact focuses on four critical areas:

  • Supporting Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) students
  • Building technological excellence
  • Promoting success before and beyond graduation
  • Advancing information sharing and engagement

Today, I’m eager to share our year one progress in these focus areas.

Supporting HBCU STEM students

Cisco was the first corporate donor to Student Freedom Initiative’s “Access to Education” endowment with a commitment of $50 million. The endowment has been introduced to over 20 HBCUs and, as of May 2022, over $1.6 million has been disbursed to 119 students at seven HBCUs: Claflin, Clark Atlanta, Hampton, Morehouse, Prairie View, Tuskegee, and Xavier University of Louisiana. Our $50 million anchor donation is helping the endowment reach its goal of $450 million, which will support 4,500 students in perpetuity.

Building technology excellence

Cisco is providing $100 million in software and services to modernize HBCU information technology (IT) environments up to cybersecurity compliance standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). We have completed over 20 NIST assessments across 11 states and donated more than $7 million in software and services.

In 2022, our African American Cisco Partner Community (AACPC) will become an integral part of our IT modernization effort. Cisco will train and mentor AACPC partners on how to conduct NIST Cybersecurity Assessments at HBCUs.

Promoting success before and beyond graduation

Cisco Networking Academy, an industry standard IT education program, is now available at 34 HBCUs, with training for 18 HBCUs taking place this month. Our goal is to introduce Cisco Networking Academy to all HBCUs with free instructor training, which will increase student recruitment opportunities.

Advancing information sharing and engagement

The Cisco HBCU Advisory Board is composed of 11 Cisco leaders from across our business. The Advisory Board will continue to bring Cisco leadership together to share and create best practices, engage our community stakeholders, and expand company-wide awareness about our commitment to our HBCUs’ success.

Where We’re Going

The past year has been a learning journey for certain.  We move forward with these lessons and a conviction that our efforts are having an impact. Xavier University of Louisiana was the first university to complete a Cisco-sponsored NIST Assessment:

“We received $1.2 million in software resources to install on our campus at no cost to the university. We are allowed to lease that hardware and software for cybersecurity for a period of 5 years. That will enable me to build an adequate budget for cybersecurity moving forward. It will also allow me to secure and certify in a much shorter time frame. When I say a much shorter time frame – most HBCU’s compete for technology resources, staff, experts to do much of this infrastructure work. What we are doing, probably in 12 months, would have taken me about 36 months to do with the staffing and resources that I normally have.”
Dr. Mable J. Moore, VP & Chief Information Officer, Xavier University of Louisiana 

We will continue to empower change like this, guided by the long-term goals we set:

  1. Over the next 3 years, we commit to partnering with HBCUs to develop sustainable strategies focused on delivering student success, innovation opportunities, and investment into African American / Black-owned startups.
  2. Over the next 4 years, we will ensure a successful recovery by supplying technology upgrades to establish exceptional remote learning options, as well as providing scholarships to encourage enrollment from those in need.

Our intention is to make a lasting impact for HBCUs and their students for generations to come, and we’re off to a heartening start. In light of current events where our African American / Black communities are under threat, we need to act now to ensure that we are all doing our part to empower this community.

We invite you – and our entire Cisco ecosystem –

to join us on the Student Freedom Initiative!