Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the U.S., opened its doors nearly 200 years ago. In the time since, more than 100 HBCUs have been established.
Each year, the professionals, experts and students from the HBCU community gather together for the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference. The conference is a part of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity. During a series of back-to-back activities and discussions, the community discusses best practices and how to combat issues.
“What we need to do is enable those HBCUs more effectively through bringing more resources, most important of which today is broadband. [We’re] still where 82 percent of HBCUs live are in broadband deserts,” Smith said.
He went on to express: “That cannot stand. That is something that we need to make sure that our HBCUs and our community demand of not only the federal government but other companies that can enable all of our students to have access to broadband immediately, not five years from now.”
Education reform and bridging racial disparities are key pillars of Smith’s philanthropy. He believes that providing underserved communities with a high-quality, affordable education is a critical step in fixing deeply rooted economic inequalities. A big part of achieving that is providing those that have been traditionally disadvantaged with reliable internet access.
Under Smith’s leadership as the Chairman of the Initiative, Cisco donated $150 million to advance the technology infrastructure and cybersecurity systems at HBCUs across the U.S. in 2021. Most recently, the organization has partnered with Connect Humanity, Claflin University, South Carolina State University and the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities to bridge the digital divide for HBCU students.
This partnership is just one of many projects the Initiative is working on to help create long-lasting change for HBCU students and the communities they serve.