From Skyhook To STEM: Kareem Abdul Jabbar Brings The Science



Kareem Abdul Jabbar is taking his shot helping narrow the opportunity and equity gaps with his Skyhook Foundation and Camp Skyhook. The Los Angeles nonprofit helps public school students in the city access a free, fun, week-long STEM education camp experience in the Angeles National Forest.

Every week throughout the year, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Unified School District, groups of 4th and 5th graders attend Camp Skyhook at the Clear Creek Outdoor Education Center, one of the oldest outdoor education centers in America. The hands-on science curriculum allows students to study nature up close: take water temperature in a stream; soil or forest samples during a hike; study the local wildlife or explore the stars. That’s alongside the traditional fare of hiking, swimming, and campfire songs.

It’s so popular there’s basically a five-year waiting list for the camp in the city’s schools, where about 80 percent of students receive free and reduced-price lunch.

Having an NBA Hall of Famer and the league’s all-time leading scorer support the camp certainly helps attract attention and financial support.

Abdul-Jabbar puts the spotlight “on environmental literacy and the need for students to be given the opportunity to learn about science in a place where they can do their own investigations and experiments,” says Gerry Salazar, director of outdoor and environmental education programs at LAUSD. “We don’t have rivers and streams at LA school sites.”

They do at Camp Skyhook.

I reached out to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by phone for details on the program and to find out what motivates him to advocate for STEM Ed.

You continue to have a really interesting, engaging and productive life after your NBA career, including numerous books and more. Why did you decide to start the Skyhook Foundation and Camp Skyhook?

I’ve always been an advocate for literacy and just giving kids tools that they can use to have productive lives. That’s so important. All the good jobs in the 21st century are going to be centered around science, technology, engineering and math. There’s no way around it. So if we can give kids an idea of where the jobs are and what they have to do to get those jobs, they can adjust right now. We try to get to them before they get pulled in various directions by peer pressure and popular culture. It’s so easy. So many of these kids, they want to be LeBron James or Beyonce or Denzel Washington. They think that unless they’re a star they don’t have anything to offer. That’s not true.

We’ve had thousands of kids attend a one-week session where they do hands-on experiments in STEM. They observe the night sky and they learn about water conservation and the effect of wildlife and the effect on wildlife by human interaction with the environment and animals and everything. It’s wonderful what happens there, because the kids get turned on to where to look and what to do. It makes me feel good just knowing what’s been happening.

Continue onto NPR to read more about Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s STEM efforts.

UT Arlington to Give $10.6m in Student Grants

A blue piggy bank wearing a graduation cap with stacks of coins next to it.

The University of Texas at Arlington, otherwise known as UT Arlington, will be giving its students $10.6 million in grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The CARES Act provided UT Arlington with more than $21 million in April. About half of this amount will be given as financial aid to UT Arlington’s students, while the other half will be used for other university-related needs.
Of the $10.6 million in grants, full-time students are eligible to receive $1000, while part-time students will be eligible to receive $500.
However, not all students will be eligible to receive these funds, such as international, undocumented, and unenrolled students, as well as students in certain online exclusive programs, who do not qualify for financial aid, or do not have a need for the money.

For students who are not qualified for the grant and need financial assistance, UT Arlington’s emergency assistance fund can be applied for here.

TECH EXPO – Virtual Hiring Event

woman interviewing with man on website, close up, rear view

TECHEXPO Top Secret, the Nation’s premier producer of professional job fairs for the defense & intelligence industry, has proudly announced that they are launching a Virtual Hiring Event for Security-Cleared professionals. For over 25 years, TECHEXPO has consistently produced the leading cleared in-person hiring events for the most sought-after positions in IT, Engineering, Cyber Security, and a multitude of other industries.

During these unprecedented times, TECHEXPO understands the need for both job seekers and employers to be able to interview for open positions, all while practicing social distancing. Through this virtual Hiring Event, TECHEXPO provides a safe way to interview from the comfort of each individual’s own home or office. The distinguishing feature that sets TECHEXPO apart from the rest is the ability for job seekers and recruiters to conduct full interviews via live video, in addition to text chat.

The TECHEXPO Virtual Hiring Event will be held on May 14th and will be for professionals with any level of active security clearance.

The event will run from 12 PM – 5 PM EDT.

Some of the top defense & technology companies have already confirmed their participation in this event, including Deloitte, L3Harris, Amazon Web Services, Boeing Intelligence & Analytics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman Technology Sector, AT&T Government Services, Leidos and many more! “We are thrilled that so many top tier companies have stepped up and are participating in these virtual hiring events!” states Bradford Rand, CEO of TECHEXPO Top Secret.”

The team at TECHEXPO also produces the Official Cyber Security Summit series throughout the nation and Canada, whereby some of those conferences are going virtual with a monthly “Cyber Summit Power Hour” held throughout the USA. Details:

Companies looking to recruit security-cleared talent safely and efficiently can secure their virtual booth by contacting Bradford Rand, CEO of TECHEXPO, at / 212-655-4505 ext. 223.

Security-Cleared Professionals, Transitioning Military and or Veterans are encouraged to explore & interview for hundreds of jobs all across the country.

To view the growing list of companies recruiting and to register to attend as a job seeker, please visit

American Indian College Fund Names Five Tribal College Participants for $2.4 Million Cultivating Native College Student Success Program

Native american female student with group of other international students

In order to remain sustainable, tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) located on or near Indian reservations, must recruit, complete enrollment, retain and graduate Native American students. TCUs provide affordable access to a higher education for Native students, but to build sustainable tribal communities through education, those students must also graduate. The American Indian College Fund selected five tribal colleges and universities to participate in its new 30-month Cultivating Native College Student Success Program to increase TCUs’ capacity to better recruit and work with students while increasing their sustainability as higher education institutions in the process.

Five TCUs were chosen to participate in a program that represent a diverse group of institutions with different sizes, program scopes, and program stages to create a cohort for cross-institutional support and to develop a community of practice around strategic enrollment and staff implementation strategies.

The five TCUs selected include:
• Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, South Dakota
• United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, North Dakota
• Stone Child College, Box Elder, Montana
• Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, Wisconsin
• Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Montana

Kelly LaChance
Kelly LaChance

The American Indian College Fund hired Kelly LaChance (a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz and descendant from the Dakubetede of Southern Oregon and the Northern California and Southern Oregon Shasta Nation) to manage the program. Ms. LaChance has devoted her education and career to American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) education with a focus on student success. Prior to joining the College Fund, she served as an Education Director and Education Specialist for two federally recognized tribes. She also served on the AIAN Advisory committee to the Oregon Department of Education, concurrently served as a Tribal Advisory Council member at three universities in AIAN student services and programming, and additionally worked as the Assistant Program Director for the AIAN teacher program at the University of Oregon. Ms. LaChance holds a bachelor’s degree from Southern Oregon University and a master’s degree in adult education and training from Colorado State University. She is currently completing a doctor of education degree in educational methodology, policy, and leadership from the University of Oregon.

About the American Indian College Fund – Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 30 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $7.72 million in scholarships to 3,900 American Indian students in 2018-19, with nearly 137,000 scholarships and community support totaling over $221.8 million since its inception. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit

The First Pharmacy to Add Drones for Delivery

A drone holding a small UPS package flies in front of a CVS Pharmacy

CVS, in an effort to ensure proper medication is easily available to those who need it the most, has been utilizing in-store pickup, drive through services, and free delivery to distribute their prescriptions. But for the first time in history, in partnership with UPS, one CVS pharmacy will start delivering medication in a new way—by drone.

The Villages, the largest retirement facility in the United States, located in central Florida, will begin receiving their prescription medications from CVS via drone delivery starting in early May and is expected to continue until the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Drone delivery will enable more social distancing of especially susceptible members of the community and decrease the chances of infection on both sides. The drones will only be flying a half-mile distance to a separate location and transported by truck from there.

Though this technology is rarely used presently, this isn’t the first time that drone delivery has been tested. In fact, drone delivery was first utilized by UPS to make deliveries to WakeMed’s flagship campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, and at UC San Diego in California. These deliveries, as well as the ones that will be made in Florida, adhere to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules and have permission to be utilized during the pandemic.

Deployment of delivery drones during the pandemic could potentially open up to possibilities of drone delivery in the future and among other CVS pharmacies.

To read the full press release, click here

How Notre Dame Joined Forces in Times of Crisis

man holding donated face shields at fire station

Though many of the University of Notre Dame’s facilities have temporarily closed in response to COVID-19, its Innovation Lab at the IDEA Center remains open to create fully shielded face masks for the area’s local and regional medical facilities.

It all started when the IDEA Center decided they wanted to create a prototype mask for the nearby medical facilities to do their part in fighting COVID-19. Once word of this procedure began to spread, many of the university’s colleagues across different departments and campuses stepped up to help.

Since the outbreak, Notre Dame has produced thousands of face shields to be donated to medical facilities, producing about 250 masks per day. The Innovation Lab is covering the cost of all of the supplies being used to create the masks, while others are donating their printers and time to printing masks, managing the donation front, and gathering supplies. The lab currently uses about 40 printers on loan from their colleagues, and have since produced about 3,000 masks. All of the masks, which can be easily disinfected and reused, are being distributed to medical and health facilities across the area.

Matthew Leevy, the director of the IDEA Center Innovation Lab, has been working to coordinate the printings and procedures happening across campuses, has every intention of continuing to print the masks, and intends to produce more for other healthcare facilities in the following weeks.

Medical facilities in need of these masks may contact Jessica Brookshire—senior program director in the Office of Clinical Partnerships—at

Diversity in STEAM Snapshot: NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program

A photo of Dawn Harris smiling at the camera

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program is a comprehensive training program for aspiring minority and female pit crew members. The program focuses on instilling the fundamentals, discipline and confidence required to be a top athlete on a NASCAR pit crew. The program includes weekly hands-on, over-the-wall position training and coaching for tire changers, tire carriers, fuelers and jackmen, as well as weight training, agility and footwork programs.

The program’s objective is to create a pit crew development program designed to identify, coach, train and develop minority athletes who possess the skill, ability and attitude to be successful as a pit crew member into elite levels of the sport.

To offer this opportunity to young men and women all across the nation, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program launched a development and recruitment tour in May of 2016. Diversity in STEAM Magazine got the chance to speak with Dawn Harris, Senior Director, Multicultural Development for NASCAR, more about the Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program and the impact it’s had on the racing industry:

How did the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program get its start?

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program began in 2004 and is an academy-style development program for female and multicultural drivers and crew members who have the potential and determination to succeed at the highest levels of NASCAR.

What kinds of duties/tasks do the athletes assist with in the pit?

The pit crew is a team of five athletes who jack the car, change tires, refuel gas and adjust parts in a matter of seconds to keep or propel the driver closer to the front of the race.

What do those who participate like most about the program?

Most NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program participants like the comradery and exposure they receive as being part of the program. The pit crew program bodes a 100-percent placement rate, so it’s more than likely that they’ll be placed on a team or will be pitting in the ARCA series or NASCAR national series within a couple of years of graduating from the program.

How do you evaluate the success of the program?

The success of the program is evaluated by how many athletes are placed on teams in NASCAR and how many student-athletes have become interested in the program over time.

How do you select your athletes/drivers for the program?

As far as the pit crew program, NASCAR and Rev Racing scout athletes at different colleges and universities where they host preliminary combines. From there, standout athletes invited to the national combine that takes place in May and a selection is made on who advances to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program, a six-month development program with NASCAR and Rev Racing. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Youth Combine and Driver Combine are a little different. An application process is involved, and a voting committee decides who is selected for the combine.

How does this program help these drivers progress in their NASCAR careers?

The driver program helps drivers compete in lower series’ where they can showcase their talent and eventually move up to the national series NASCAR teams. It gives them a platform for growth as many teams are constantly looking to fill seats on their rosters and searching for up and coming talent. These series include NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, ARCA Menards Series and US Legends’ Car Series. Drivers also get support with media training and physical fitness training.

Can you share any part of the success of the program?

There are three drivers competing at the highlight level of NASCAR in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series who have come from the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program, such as the most recent NASCAR winner at Dover International Speedway, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez. That speaks volumes to the success of the program because they started from the bottom and have worked their way to the top.

What impact has the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program had on the racing industry?

Since 2004, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program has introduced more women and minorities to the sport than ever before. It’s shown that there’s more people to reach in diverse communities that also have a love for racing but may not have seen a viable career option.  This program is helping to change the narrative about diversity in racing. Not only does it start on a driver level but reaches every part of the industry from the office to the crew members to the tracks and teams.

How significant was it to have both Daniels and O’Leary participate in the Daytona 500?

Very significant. That was the first time two women graduates from the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program went over the wall on the same team at the Daytona 500. It signifies a turning point in the industry as women become more athletic and break down barriers in a traditionally male role. We want NASCAR, on and off the track, to reflect the diverse makeup of our country.

What other participants can you share with us from the Drive for Diversity program being featured in even more key races in the future?

As mentioned before, Kyle Larson is currently competing for a championship in the top series. Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez are also competing at the highest level of the sport. Isabella Robusto is a youth driver who’s been successful on and off the track. She competes in Legends’ cars, but she has dreams of making it to the top level. Participants from the pit crew program include Kenyatta Houston and Johnathan Willard who work for race teams and pit full time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

What other aspects of diversity would you like to share with us about your program and/or general diversity efforts NASCAR has made, is making and will be making?

Recently, NASCAR hosted the 2019 Sports Diversity and Inclusion Symposium in Daytona Beach, Fla. at Daytona International Speedway. The event gathers diversity and inclusion practitioners from top U.S. sports leagues to engage in meaningful dialogue and share best practices around D&I efforts across the industry.


Please visit for more information on NASCAR Drive for Diversity.

NASA engineers in Pasadena area develop ventilator tailored to needs of COVID-19 patients

NASA Engineers pictured at laboratory

The engineers at NASA have developed a high-pressure ventilator prototype specifically tailored to help coronavirus patients, according to the agency.

It’s called VITAL, or Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally.

And after passing a critical test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York earlier this week, NASA is hoping for fast-track approval of the ventilator in the coming days so it can be used to help coronavirus patients.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Pasadena area developed the ventilator, which can be built quickly using fewer parts, most of which are available in current supply chains, the agency said. But it won’t compete with the existing supply chain for ventilators.

“We were very pleased with the results of the testing we performed in our high-fidelity human simulation lab,” said Dr. Matthew Levin, director of innovation for the Human Simulation Lab and associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine, and genetics and genomics sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine, in a statement.

“The NASA prototype performed as expected under a wide variety of simulated patient conditions. The team feels confident that the VITAL ventilator will be able to safely ventilate patients suffering from Covid-19 both here in the United States and throughout the world.”

The prototype works like traditional ventilators, where sedated patients rely on an oxygen tube to help them breathe. But it’s built to last three or four months unlike ventilators in hospitals that were designed to last for years and help patients with other medical issues. The engineers hope that more traditional ventilators can be freed up for patients with the most severe cases of coronavirus if VITAL is put into place.

The innovative ventilator was also designed to offer more oyxgen at higher pressures than typical models because Dr. Levin said some of the patients he’s treating needed that capability.

“Intensive care units are seeing Covid-19 patients who require highly dynamic ventilators,” said Dr. J.D. Polk, NASA’s chief health and medical officer, in a statement. “The intention with VITAL is to decrease the likelihood patients will get to that advanced stage of the disease and require more advanced ventilator assistance.”

It was also designed to be flexible with easy maintenance, meaning it can be used in the diverse settings hosting field hospitals, including hotels and convention centers.

“We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing,” Michael Watkins, JPL director, said in a statement. “But excellent engineering, rigorous testing and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive.”

Rising to the challenge

Engineers like Stacey Boland stepped up, driven to do anything they could to help. The last 40 days have taken everything they had to make VITAL. The team worked long hours each day, which bled over into nonexistent weekends.

Boland is a project system engineer developing the MAIA instrument, the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols that will characterize particulate matter in air pollution. The instrument could provide the data that helps medical professionals determine what types of pollution correlate with negative health outcomes.

On MAIA, Boland has worked with epidemiologists to determine the data they would need from the mission.

On VITAL, Boland acted as the operations lead to create a communication pathway between engineers, designers and visualization specialists with doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and intensivists (board-certified physicians providing special care for critically ill patients). Translating between the different professions to put everyone on the same page was a challenge, but one she enjoyed.

Operating during a pandemic meant that they were relying on calls, sending images and video conferencing to make a product in real time. Medical professionals called in on their lunch breaks, still in scrubs, describing what they were seeing in patients and what they would need VITAL to do.

A limited staff worked in person on the hardware, while the rest of the team video conferenced in. Boland was literally writing the instruction manual for how to operate VITAL as it was being built.

For Boland, it’s personal. Her sister is a hospitalist nurse practitioner at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport in Mississippi. She would call her sister, send her pictures and ask questions as they worked on the device, and her sister would send feedback in real time.

Boland calls it the experience of a lifetime, working on a team that was able to find camaraderie through their singular desire to create something helpful during such a challenging time.

When they encountered obstacles while working on VITAL, there was no sleeping on decisions that needed to be made, Boland said. Normal coping mechanisms were tossed out the window, and they worked through issues in real time to overcome the next challenge.

It’s been an adrenaline rush, working on a ventilator in such a short time, and the team wished it were under better circumstances. But the VITAL team was driven to help.

“I am not a medical device engineer, but when I hear someone on the front line needs something, I want them to have it,” Boland said. “We want to be there for them. It’s been a blessing and a privilege to have something so challenging and yet so relevant to be working on.”

Leon Alkalai, a technical fellow at JPL, manages the office of strategic partnerships. In recent years, he’s been leading a small effort to build relationships with the medical engineering community. He joined the VITAL team in a leadership role and helped establish communication between JPL and Mount Sinai, the FDA and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Alkalai said the FDA has been extremely supportive. And the doctors at Mount Sinai were interested in partnering together on VITAL after he reached out and shared the idea.

The collaboration between NASA and the FDA and medical professionals is an example of how institutions with different areas of expertise are coming together to create solutions for the pandemic.

“We’re rocket scientists and engineers, we know how to land on the moon and Mars,” Alkalai said. “But building a medical device is new. We were humbled by that challenge to do something we’ve never done before for a good cause. It goes against our culture to do something quickly in a domain where we’re not experts. But it fits with the JPL mantra: ‘Dare Mighty Things.’”

Currently, the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL, is conducting outreach to find manufacturers for VITAL.

A helping hand

Additionally, NASA is trying to help fill the gaps due to shortages of other medical equipment in local communities, like Antelope Valley, California. One new device is the Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet, which can be used to help treat coronavirus patients with minor symptoms so they don’t have to use a ventilator. It functions more like a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, commonly used to treat sleep apnea, the agency said.

It has already been successfully tested and submitted to the FDA for emergency-use authorization. Meanwhile, 500 are currently in production.

The device is the result of a collaboration between NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California partnered with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, Antelope Valley College and members of the Antelope Valley Task Force.

Continue on to KTLA News to read the complete article.

The State of Diversity in Sports

An array of sports equipment sitting on the grass

By Jaeson “Doc” Parsons

“There’s no crying in baseball!” These are the words of the gruff, belligerent coach, Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks in the iconic film, A League of Their Own. While this line has become its own “league” in terms of popularity, the movie brought to light a deeper issue – diversity in sports – a topic that still resonates into the new millennium.

One hundred years ago, diversity in sports was unheard of—in fact, it was prohibited. Not until Jackie Robinson was drafted into the Brooklyn Dodgers did baseball finally start down the road toward diversity. He was followed by other minorities including Roberto Clemente, who became the first Latin-American player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. The baseball our grandfathers knew has dramatically changed due to diversity, and now more than 40 percent of players are non-white. However, much of this diversity is still not reflected in the front-office as much as it is on the field.

According to Renee Tirado, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Chief Diversity Officer, “There’s no sugar-coating this. There’s a lot to do.” In an article published on, across the entire league only 188 women are in an operations role, which include positions such as scouting and contract negotiations. Since the league was founded, not one woman has been in a general managers’ position and only three have risen to assistant.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The MLB has created two programs which are meant to equalize this disparity among the genders. One such program is the Diversity Pipeline Program which, “seeks to identify, develop and grow the pool of qualified minority and female candidates for on-field and baseball operations positions throughout the industry.”

Baseball isn’t the only major sport looking to focus on diversity, as the National Football League has been looking to diversify their workforce as well. For example, the San Francisco 49ers education consulting venture, EDU Academy, and their “Play Like a Girl” (PLAG) non-profit, have partnered to provide high-impact STEAM and sports programs tailored specifically towards young girls. Their efforts have engaged more than 250,000 K-8 participants in the San Francisco area over the past five years. In addition, the NFL, in partnership with the Black College Football Hall of Fame, hosted a summit earlier this year for assistant coaches both at the college and pro levels. The goal of this summit, according to an article published by Axios, “is to strengthen the development pipeline for coaches of color on the offensive side of the ball, where the NFL currently lacks diversity.”

The NHL is another sport looking into diversity and while hockey is one of the most internationally diverse sports on the planet, its racial diversity is far behind all other North American sports leagues. But the NHL is working to change this by launching its Hockey Is for Everyone program in 1998, which celebrates diversity of race, gender and sexuality in the sport throughout the month of February with league wide events. And its Learn to Play program, launched in 2016, provides free ice time and equipment in an effort to reach lower income and inner-city communities.

Other sports organizations, such as the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), have also been looking to diversity their ranks. Golf and the PGA have long been considered behind the curve in terms of diversity and much of their efforts on diversity were focused primarily on player development programs. However, the PGA saw this wasn’t enough and they have been working towards focusing more on the workforce, which provides two million jobs in an $84 million industry. In addition, the PGA made a landmark investment of $2.5 million over the next five years in diversity efforts, which started with the PGA Works Fellowship and has grown to include scholarships and career events. This program offers entry-level employment for recent college grads, providing them with critical hands-on experience in operations and administration.

Similar to golf, tennis has struggled with diversity but in 2017, at the US Open, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) hosted the sixth annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit which is the annual conference of the Diversity and Inclusion in Sports Consortium. By hosting this summit, the USTA sought to use this as a launching point for their own efforts focusing on the development and growth of tennis across all cultures. During this summit, D.A. Abrams, USTA’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer stated, “We are proud to gather and share best practices on utilizing Diversity and Inclusion to not only grow and expand our sports, but use D&I as a key strategy to ultimately succeed in our business units”. Extending the tradition, the USTA hosted their second Diversity and Inclusion summit during this year’s US Open, with the focus of this being the role of supplier diversity in helping to strengthen community engagement efforts.

Not to be left out of this continuing trend, NASCAR has also become more focused on diversifying its sport through efforts such as the Drive for Diversity program, created by former champion driver, Joe Gibbs, in 2003. Graduates of this program are competing at the highest level today, which include Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr; Daniel Suarez, the first Mexican-American driver; and Aric Almirola, the first Cuban-American driver; in the Cup series. In addition to NASCAR’s efforts to diversify their professional drivers, they are sponsoring programs for increased diversification within their pit crews. One such program began in May of this year, the NASCAR Diversity Pit Crew Combine, held in Concord, NC. This competition placed 12 college athletes from very diverse backgrounds against each other in order to claim their chance to train as a NASCAR pit crew member.

One sports league that’s ahead of the game in terms of diversity is the National Basketball Association (NBA), and many other leagues are looking to follow suit. Focusing on diversity led to the hire of its first female head coach, Lindsey Harding of the 76ers. The NBA’s culture of inclusion is, as one owner says, “light years ahead of all other North American leagues.” This diversity shows both on the court and off as this sport continues to be extremely popular and financially successful.

Change is slow and diversity efforts take time, but ensuring the opportunity is there is what these programs are all about. Almirola put it best during an interview with the Kansas City Star last year: “I feel like as an athlete we all just want one shot, one opportunity, and if you get that shot and that opportunity, then it’s up to you to go and make the most of it.”


A Quick Chat with Kellan Barfield

A photo of Kellan Barfield on a gray background

Kellan Barfield discusses her booming tech company, SOURCE EXPLORER, with Diversity in STEAM Magazine.

How did you develop the platform for SOURCE EXPLORER?

I started by interviewing Life Science Professionals about what their needs were when searching for a supplier. I observed a common theme. They were tired of hearing from vendors that they “can do it all,” when they want a specialist who has a proven track record of the exact services they’re looking for. I used this feedback to create a search engine that pulls up vetted, reviewed, and relevant supplier profile matches for their needs. This allows them to begin a new supplier relationship with trust from the start, knowing their project is not a “guinea pig” for a supplier who is just hoping for business. They are a valued client who will have experts working with them side-by-side, making the best recommendations and achieving the highest quality results.

What is your biggest challenge in running a woman-owned pharma company?

This isn’t specific to serving pharmaceutical companies, but it’s much harder for women to find funding for any new venture. Most investors are men, and there is an echo chamber of male voices reinforcing bias. There are still both men and women who have questions about whether or not women are “stable enough” to invest in, or if they’re “at risk” of taking time off for the same family commitments men have. A fellow female founder I know well was asked by a male bank representative if perhaps “her daddy could co-sign” a loan when she had plenty of collateral and $800k of orders from Walgreens in her hand. This kind of thing happens every single day. It’s real.

How is your company impacting the life sciences community?

Life Science projects are so important—this is how we get treatments to patients. So, there’s a sense of urgency to get them started. But when I managed $30M+ commercial budgets for pharmaceutical companies like Alcon and Gilead just a couple of years ago, I had multiple projects where it took up to four months just to find the suppliers I wanted to include in an RFP. And that’s before we actually go through the process of receiving and reviewing proposals and pitches. It’s months and months before progress can be made that way.

I saw a need—because it was my own—and I addressed it with SOURCE EXPLORER. It’s much easier and faster to do everything from searching to sourcing, even requesting work samples and following updates from favorite suppliers. The easier it gets, the faster vital projects get started, and the closer we get to helping people who need medical intervention.

What other goals would you like to accomplish?

Ultimately, it’s all about achieving greater patient outcomes. My way of accomplishing this is to support the people making it happen. Life Science Professionals work hard, often navigating and juggling so many factors, priorities, and processes that it would make your head spin. With SOURCE EXPLORER, I’ve taken one of those processes down to minutes, connecting them with the suppliers they need when they need them. But there’s so much more support this industry needs, even if it’s just a laugh. Ultimately, I would like to continue investing in making SOURCE EXPLORER the go-to place where Life Science lives.

What advice would you give young women looking to get into the pharma/life sciences industry?

Build relationships within the industry before you think you need them. Use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with people in your classes, at your internships, and who are already established in Life Sciences. Stay in touch with them as you develop in your education and career, and get to know how you can support them in their goals whenever possible. Relationships will get you farther than your degree alone.

Mellon Foundation Announces $4 Million Emergency Relief Grant to the American Indian College Fund in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

American Indian College Fund students talking with each other

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced a $4 million grant to the American Indian College Fund to support college students whose educational progress has been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are engines of opportunity—propelled by a cadre of dedicated educators and administrators—many lack the resources needed to deploy information technology tools, student services, and other solutions at the scale needed by their students during the COVID-19 pandemic. TCUs have been disproportionately and devastatingly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to historical inequities, structural and enrollment-related challenges, and overly burdened institutional financial aid budgets. The Mellon Foundation is dedicated to supporting efforts to allocate resources and ensure that aid is delivered to students most in need.

“Tribal Colleges and Universities are central to our nation’s fabric and critical to its future. The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding the societal and structural challenges that many of these institutions have long confronted, and we are committed to doing all that we can to support them and the students they serve,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander.

Even in better times, many students at these institutions face impediments to their individual well-being and academic progress. As campuses have closed in efforts to contain the virus’s spread, undergraduate and graduate students struggle to navigate these unprecedented times.

According to the Tribal Colleges and Universities #RealCollege Survey report published this March, 29 percent of TCU student survey respondents were homeless at some point in the prior 12 months, almost 62 percent were food insecure in the prior 30 days, and 69 percent faced housing insecurity in the prior 12 months.

“The College Fund appreciates the ways that the Mellon Foundation has demonstrated leadership in its support of tribal colleges and has shown care for the well-being of our students and their families during this crisis,” said American Indian College Fund President Cheryl Crazy Bull. “Our students are not only the backbone of their families, they are our hope for the future— through their perseverance and creativity, our tribal communities will survive this pandemic and bring prosperity to our society.”

The American Indian College Fund will distribute the emergency funds to its network of tribal colleges so that they can address immediate and pressing needs related to the pandemic and provide persistence resources to support new and returning students in the summer and fall of 2020 and beyond as determined necessary. Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund is the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education. In addition to providing thousands of scholarships to Native American students, the College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations.

Members of the public may add their support by making individual contributions on the American Indian College Fund’s website.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks to strengthen, promote, and defend the centrality of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse, fair, and democratic societies. To this end, our core programs support exemplary and inspiring institutions of higher education and culture. Additional information is available at

About the American Indian College Fund—Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 30 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $7.72 million in scholarships to 3,900 American Indian students in 2018-19, with nearly 137,000 scholarships and community support totaling over $208 million since its inception. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit

Photo: American Indian College Fund Photo