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FIU students propose solutions to White House, corporate leaders on future of tech talent during Washington seminar

FIU students propose solutions to White House, corporate leaders on future of tech talent during Washington seminar

November 30, 2021 at 6:30pm

FIU solutions to diversifying the technology workforce were center stage as 21 students visited the nation’s capital for the Future of Tech Talent fly-in seminar last month and submitted policy proposals to the White House.

A collaboration between The Talent Lab at FIU in Washington, D.C. and Campus Life, DC Fly-Ins are designed to expose policymakers to FIU’s top talent and lead to internships and jobs in Washington, in particular, increasing placements in signature organizations including federal agencies, think tanks and Capitol Hill.

"Technology occupations, including cloud computing and information security, are growing faster than any other sector. Yet, technology companies are known for ... disparities among ethnicity and gender.  Government and technology companies must work together forming sound policies to increase diverse talent in the tech workforce," said Chris Brazela, an information technology major at FIU.

The cohort — about half tech-focused majors from the Knight School of Computing and Information Sciences, Sciences, and half non-STEM majors with an interest in technology’s role in society — worked in four teams to develop policy proposals addressing how the federal government, minority-serving institutions of higher education and private industry can collaborate on better practices for training, hiring and retaining diverse tech talent.

Federal players

On day one, students met with the chief information officer of the U.S. Department of State, Keith Jones. In addition to chatting with Jones about his lengthy career in the federal IT workforce and cybersecurity priorities for the federal agency, which manages all U.S. embassies abroad, students learned about the Foreign Affairs IT (FAIT) Fellowship, which provides educational funding and a career in the Foreign Service for historically underrepresented students pursuing an IT degree.

“Her prompting questions and the overall conversation was eye-opening and inspiring as a first-generation student trying to pursue a career in Washington,” said Kyomi Cabral, a sophomore studying international relations and global education studies, after hearing from Dorris Lin, who directs diversity and inclusion efforts at State’s Bureau of Information Resource Management.

Students also met with Congressman Carlos Gimenez (FL-26) and Justin Maturo, legislative director for Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41) to better understand Congress’ role in preparing for the tech workforce.

The role of corporations and minority-serving research institutions


In addition to the federal government, students engaged with tech policy experts, many of them FIU alumni, from influential organizations like the Cato Institute; HTTP, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership; Google; and the Blockchain Association.

The visiting cohort also participated in a national dialogue that brought together leaders from the White House, a range of minority-serving institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to explore with corporate leaders how best to leverage the talent within these institutions. In partnership with STEMConnector, the dialogue showcase innovative models from Chicago, Miami and New York City, including from corporate leaders from Verizon and SoftBank.

“Scientific progress depends on people perceiving things through different perspectives and lenses. It is how America remains globally competitive,” said Jedidah Isler, assistant director of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Opportunity and Engagement at White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy who reviewed The Time is Now: Advancing Equity in Science & Technology Ideation Challenge, the basis for the cohort’s policy proposals.

Before submitting them to the White House, the four policy proposals, addressing mentorship, bias in algorithms, and micro-credentials, were presented to a panel of expert judges from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Blockchain Association at Amazon Web Services’ public policy office in Washington.

Immediately upon returning to Miami, students began making edits to their proposals before submitting them to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and began working on reflective essays through which they will earn the DC Advocacy, Communications and Careers Digital Badge.

Students’ policy Presentations submitted to the White House:  

Making connections leads to opportunities

Tamara Shour, a Senior studying International Relations and Biological Sciences, secured an internship with the Blockchain Association, and Imani Davis, a MA in Global Affairs student, participated in an on-site, first-round interview for a separate internship program on the organization’s policy team.

“This experience was life-changing for me. It showed me exactly where I want to be in 10 years. The influential leaders I got to meet not only inspired me but also opened my eyes to the amazing opportunities I can take part in to boost my future career,” said Shour.

Two more students from the trip — Christopher Brazela and Ania Kerr — will participate in FIU in DC’s Hamilton Scholars internship semester program in the Spring.

“If we want to create a world where diversity, equity, and inclusion is a priority the change must start with us,” Kerr said. 

FIU in Washington, D.C., is an integrated advocacy approach aimed at increasing FIU’s national reputation and federal support for FIU’s preeminent and emerging preeminent programs, faculty and students. The FIU in DC team collaborates with academic units to provide learning experiences and support the placement of students and alumni in internships and permanent employment.