Destinee Thomas, a third-year PhD candidate at Delaware State University, said a recent scholarship partnership between the college and Agilent has given her a chance to live out her dreams.
Agilent provided a $1 million grant that helps pay for tuition and board for 21 STEM students in an effort to have more minority students enter the field.
DSU is a Historically Black College or University, which made it a perfect match for Agilent to carry out its mission to bring STEM opportunities to underrepresented communities.
Wednesday, Agilent hosted an all-day conference in which the scholars were able to visit the company’s Wilmington location, check out labs and equipment, get career and academic advice from a panel of Agilent employees and more.
Scholars were also paired with a mentor Agilent employee.
The mentorship will involve a meeting once a week for an hour or two, and allows the students to really ask any questions relating to STEM or seek career or academic advice.
“I didn’t want to put too many constraints on it,” said Gregory MacKenney, vice president and general manager of the company’s supplies division. “It’s really about building relationships and having connections to someone that’s in a corporate setting to get some additional insight and perspective of the industry.”
Thomas, a native New Yorker who wants to be an analytical chemist, said the scholarship helped her be able to breathe and focus on her research rather than stressing about paying for rent or tuition.
“We’re students, but you know, we still have to survive, so the money helps a lot,” she said.
Agilent also provided lab equipment to DSU.
“With the new technologies that they offer at our University, we can add those skills to our résumé so that when we get into the industry, we’re able to get these jobs and then just change the room and the atmosphere,” Thomas said.
MacKenney pointed out that diversifying the industry can also help the bottom line.
“It opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in terms of new ideas, new ways of thinking, new perspectives,” he said. “The companies that are more diverse are the ones that tend to outperform, and so there’s a business necessity as well.”
He said applied learning opportunities are a priority of the partnership.
“Whether that’s through internships, us providing training or the instrumentation that we’re donating,” he said. “Even at today’s event, there’s that coupling of ‘here’s what I’ve learned in the classroom, here’s what I’ve learned in the labs at school.’ Now, how does that show up and manifest in a corporate setting or in the real world?”
He stressed the importance of using world-class instrumentation, and how that can be used not only to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals, but also allow them to do work they might not have been able to do with rudimentary instruments, which will make them more marketable.
Thomas, a Black woman, said there’s not many people that look like her when she steps into the proverbial room of STEM.
“The scholarship gives us all an opportunity to live out our dreams, and I feel like the scholarship gives us motivation, time and the ability to do those things and to make a difference,” she said. “I think it’s important to have representation like us in the field.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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