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Success Story in Action: Corning’s Material Investment in Diverse STEM Talent

In Aug. 2021, N.C. A&T and Corning Incorporated kicked off their five-year partnership with a day-long, on-campus event where they also introduced the 53 new Corning Scholars and Fellows.

Corning Incorporated has a longstanding history of prioritizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) — since 1968 in fact. One of the world’s leading innovators in materials science, Corning makes it priority to attract, recruit, and retain the world’s best and diverse talent.

Last fall, Corning kicked off a five-year, $5.5 million investment partnership with North Carolina Argricultural and Technical State University, which will provide scholarships through 2026. The partnership has a special focus on enhancing STEM education, helping students become community classroom teachers, and boosting the number of graduates in other fields critical to the nation’s workforce. In addition to scholarships for STEM students, Corning has made an investment in Aggie Educators, the future teachers responsible for educating our future STEM pipeline.

“The business case is that we need as diverse of a talent pipeline as possible. That includes people from different races, genders, and ethnic backgrounds,” said Dr. Mark Vaughn, technical talent pipelining manager and lead for Corning’s Technology Community Office of STEM. “The fact that N.C. A&T graduates the nation’s largest number of Black engineers for example, made the investment a no-brainer.”

Additionally, as one of the company’s seven core values, DE&I is integral to Corning’s belief in the “fundamental dignity of The Individual,” and they are committed to providing an inclusive environment where all employees can thrive.

Dr. Rosalind Dale, who is the vice provost for engagement and outreach at N.C. A&T and works heavily on the Corning partnership said, “Corning wanted to ensure the partnership was intentional and impactful. They were also open to what the opportunities could be and were willing to adapt the partnership based on what was working and not working. It’s never been about just checking a box for them.”

According to Dr. Dale, Corning’s investment will help the university fulfill its goal of providing more students with the opportunity to engage in innovative research and mentoring scholarships.

Highlights of the program include:
• $3.3 million in scholarships for those in STEM fields and to help graduate more Black teachers;
• $1.7 million in experiential learning opportunities to build career preparedness and pre-college initiatives through internships, career treks, site visits, and other areas; and
• $500,000 for A&T’s Equity in Education Initiative, which is designed to increase the number of Black college graduates securing careers in fields critical to the nation’s workforce.

“It’s important for corporate partnerships to not just be about recruiting but show an investment in the students and the university,” said Dr. Dale. “Partnerships such as this may make the difference in students choosing A&T—particularly for our first-generation students.”

Dr. Vaughn said the company came into the partnership with several goals, which included growing Corning’s workforce in North Carolina and nationwide and increasing the pipeline and pool of Black educators in underserved areas while establishing and maintaining a mutually beneficial partnership with N.C. A&T.

“This was never going to be a one-size-fits-all partnership for either Corning or N.C. A&T,” he explained. “We’re at the top of the game with what we do. But we’re not the top at knowing what will work for the university and its students. We show up as students ourselves and acknowledge that it’s a learning process. One thread that’s common between Corning and the University is the knowledge that experiential learning and education opportunities will increase the STEM pipeline—and we of course hope to see an increase in our own pipeline both in North Carolina and other communities where Corning has a presence.”

He also said that Corning hopes to memorialize learnings from this partnership for other opportunities in the future. Dr. Vaughn went on to proudly discuss the overwhelmingly positive feedback Corning has received from the University—from both the administration and students alike.

“Corning’s leaders have literally been at the table since the beginning of this partnership; their enthusiastic engagement has been a testament to the value they place on this historic partnership,” he said. “Similarly, when I’m on campus, N.C. A&T’s Chancellor [Harold L.] Martin [Sr.] and / or members of his executive team are right there. This validates and shows the level of commitment from both sides.”

‘Success Stories in Action’ is a series that’s part of the NC Chamber’s plan to spotlight success stories and solutions to pressing workforce challenges, as part of our Foundation’s work in the Institute for Workforce Competitiveness. Corning Incorporated is an NC Chamber Cornerstone member.