Corning’s Recruiting From Historically Black Colleges Isn’t Just About Diversity; It’s About Hiring The Best

Corning’s partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities like North Carolina A&T State University support diversity in STEM.

If there are any misconceptions about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Ibraheem Muhammad wants to squash them. Muhammad graduated from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC A&T), the largest HBCU in the U.S., in 2013, just before Corning snatched him up as a young engineer.

“NC A&T and other HBCUs do not always get their due credit for fostering amazing talent,” said Muhammad, melting and forming process leader at Corning’s plant in Vineland, New Jersey.

By welcoming fellow NC A&T grads into Corning, he’s helping to change that perception.

While Muhammad has made it his personal mission to mentor NC A&T grads, it's also an interest that Corning made official earlier this year by partnering with the university. Along with a $5.5 million scholarship grant covering the next five years, Corning is putting an official mentorship program in place for students in the fall. Corning also wants to increase the number of Black engineering and business students hired from NC A&T to at least eight per year by 2025.

The motion not only creates a talent pipeline for brilliant, yet marginalized professionals, it also aligns with Corning’s drive for greater diversity.

“Corning’s investment in a HBCU highlights the value of the education you get from that school,” Muhammad said.

The NC A&T partnership is just one of the reasons why Corning was recently named “Top Supporter” of HBCUs for the 19th consecutive year.

The “Top Supporter” recognition comes from Career Communications Group, Inc., which surveys the deans of 15 HBCU engineering programs and the corporate-academic alliance, Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering. The survey is conducted by US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine.

When listing their top supporters, deans consider support for their schools’ modernization and enhancement, research, participation on advisory councils, faculty development opportunities, scholarships, student projects, stipends, internship and co-op opportunities, and job offers related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

In his role as manager, Technical Talent Pipelining and lead, Technology Community Office of STEM, Mark Vaughn has led Corning's support of several HBCU engineering programs in their efforts to maintain their leading research, quality of faculty, relationships with government and corporations, and build a national pipeline for diverse talent. As a result, Corning has been on the top supporter list every year since its conception in 2003.

“This recognition speaks to our impactful, long-term commitment to HBCU partnerships and to helping increase access to world-class STEM education and careers,” Vaughn said. “The Office of STEM is sincerely grateful to our leaders and employees for championing, advocating, and supporting this mission critical work.”

In addition to NC A&T, Corning’s support for HBCUs and minority-serving institutions extends to City College of New York, Florida A&M University, Howard University, Jackson State University, Morehouse College and Spelman College. Corning also maintains a presence at events like the National Society of Black Engineers annual convention for recruiting efforts.

The partnerships benefit the company as well as the colleges: schools get the support they need to germinate brilliance, while Corning gains access to bright, young talent. Dana Moss, division vice president and chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) officer, says diversity in hiring supports Corning’s culture of innovation.

“Diversity in the workplace brings different perspectives to projects, and it starts with fostering it in STEM education,” Moss said. “The earlier we support these gifted young minds, the better our future will be – not only at Corning, but beyond. Everyone benefits.”

While the recent NC A&T partnership is a new company-wide endeavor, Corning Optical Communications (COC) headquarters in Charlotte, no less than 100 miles from NC A&T, has been recruiting students for a while.

Michael A. Bell, senior vice president and general manager, COC, says it’s a perfect match.

“We have a long-standing relationship with NC A&T; some of our most successful executives are alumni,” Bell said. “We believe education is the most transformative force in our communities. This new Corning Scholars program at NC A&T will attract the best high school students and fuel Corning with the talent needed for another 170 years of life-changing innovation.”

Creating diversity in the workplace is essential to the innovation Bell speaks of, Muhammad said.

“We come from different backgrounds and experiences, which help shape our thought processes and makes a team more dynamic and productive,” Muhammad said.

But perhaps most importantly, making NC A&T grads feel at home at Corning depends on emulating the atmosphere that students crave at historically Black colleges: community.

“It’s about fostering an environment where everyone feels comfortable, having colleagues you can relate to,” Muhammad said. “When you’re not comfortable, the added stress and pressure takes away from your productivity and doing your job.

“Corning has shown that they’re investing in people.”