Wilbur Wright College and DPI Announce Partnership To Build More Diverse Tech Talent Pipeline

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The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and Wilbur Wright College recently announced a new partnership to support and develop promising and diverse tech talent in Illinois, with a focus on pathways into computer and data science fields.

The partnership will kick-off this summer with weekly DPI-led workshops, to approximately 50 students participating in Wright College’s NSF-funded Engineering and Computer Science Summer Bridge Program and other students with an interest in computing.

Called “Digital Bridge” these workshops will provide topical deep dives into Chicago’s tech community and connections to technologists, entrepreneurs, business, and civic leaders. DPI is partnering with World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program and other tech leaders to develop these sessions.

This builds on Wright College’s Engineering Pathways Program, which is a guaranteed admissions partnership with UIUC’s The Grainger College of Engineering, the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Armour College of Engineering, and UIC’s College of Engineering, with the goal to transfer more diverse students into these four-year institutions to pursue and complete CS and engineering fields. To date, 250 students have participated in the program.

“The disparities in CS education have been driven by a lack of access, inclusion, and clarity about the pathways into these fields,” said Mark Harris, director of community education at DPI. “This partnership with Wright College will create greater access for historically underrepresented groups in tech to pursue computing fields and build smoother pathways from high school, community college, and four-year universities to a successful career in tech.”

“As City Colleges of Chicago’s Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science, Wright College has been focused on providing essential math skills, mentoring and one-on-one holistic support to increase the transfer of students to four-year institutions to pursue and complete CS and engineering bachelor’s degrees within a reasonable time,” said Doris Espiritu, executive director, engineering program at Wright College. “Through this partnership with DPI, we will create greater connectivity between these students and the tech community, igniting interest and generating more engagement to the limitless possibilities in tech.”

Black and Latin workers make up just 12% of Chicago’s tech workforce overall. In 2019, only 14% of computer and data science graduates statewide were Black or Latinx.

Computer science education is foundational in today’s economy, essential for problem-solving and innovation, and for the economic mobility of workers.

Computing-related jobs make up roughly half of all STEM jobs in Illinois—three times more than any other STEM field. Computing also represents the top source of new wages in the economy. The COVID-19 crisis has illuminated the need for and resiliency of these jobs.

Following the summer program, DPI and Wright College will launch year-round programming aimed at high school learners to build interest and connectivity to careers in computing and tech, and stronger linkages between high school, community college, and 4-year universities.

For more information and for interest in getting involved email: wrightengineering@ccc.edu.

About DPI
The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support Chicago’s tech community. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.

About Wright College
Wright College, an open-access community college in Northwest Chicago, is an independently accredited institution of the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) system. It is CCC’s Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science with proven success in developing diverse talents in engineering and computer science. It is a federally recognized Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with the largest enrollment of Hispanic students among community colleges in Illinois (approximately 60%). Learn more at ccc.edu/engineering.