MILWAUKEE — UW Milwaukee received a $2 million gift to create the Fund for Diversity in Tech Education from one of its most notable alumni, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his wife Anu.
The fund will create full-ride scholarships to UWM for Milwaukee high school students coming from marginalized and underserved communities. The first scholarship will be given out to incoming freshman in the fall of 2022. In addition, students who receive the award will also have tutoring and mentoring opportunities.
The gift will also support pre-college programming to help expose Milwaukee students to fields like computer science, data science and information technology.
In a statement, the Nadellas said, “it is our hope that others will join us in working to create new opportunity for students from Milwaukee’s underserved communities to learn, gain new skills and grow their economic opportunity, which in turn will benefit the broader community and help this region thrive in the digital economy."
UWM Professor Emeritus K. Vairavan, one of Satya Nadella's former teachers, is helping to set up the fund and scholarship.
"Diversity is an important issue in high-tech professions. We are not where we should be as a nation," Vairavan said. "There are lots and lots of students that have the potential to succeed in high-tech fields, but they don't have the opportunity. From the Milwaukee high schools, we can draw on from a large pool of diverse candidates and it will certainly make a big difference."
Mariam Adams is a senior studying computer science at UWM. Her interest in the tech world started when she was a student at Ronald Reagan High School in Milwaukee. She knows first hand just how much a difference this scholarship will make.
"When I walk into a classroom and I don't see people that look like me, I feel like I don't belong and that I shouldn't be here," Adams said.
She says she plans to pursue a career in software development after graduation, and she's well on her way - already completing internships with MasterCard, NASA and Zillow. These are all things her mother and father, who came to the United States from the Middle East, could only dream of.
"I am a first generation student, my parents are not from here and they didn't go to college either. So, they had no idea how they could help me potentially through college," Adams said.
Although she won't be able to benefit from the scholarship, she's excited for future students like her who will have the opportunity.
UWM said it's committed to continuing to increase diversity at the school. Just last year the university was awarded a $1 million grant to increase diversity in STEM.