The Rise: Color of S.T.E.M. is a journey of innovation and exploration of incomparable HBCU students in S.T.E.M. fields leading the charge and paying it forward in their communities.
On our last episode of theGrio’s new series, “The Rise: Color of S.T.E.M.,” theGrio sat down with VSU’s 2023 co-valedictorian Blaise Davenport for an intriguing conversation about the world of computers and cybersecurity. Davenport grew up in PG County, Md., splitting her time equally between her home state and neighboring Virginia. Her love of S.T.E.M. began in first grade when she was introduced to nursing and engineering programs and began attending S.T.E.M. summer camps. When it was time to think about her collegiate future, Davenport knew she wanted to attend an HBCU, falling in love with her number-one choice: Virginia State University.
“That would be the first and last time I would be around a curated pool of Black talent all going the same direction, all wanting greater for ourselves and taking the initiative to do something with our lives,” she said confidently.
Davenport decided to major in computer information systems with a minor in cybersecurity forensics. Remember when Rihanna played a swanky cybersecurity expert in “Ocean’s 8”? That’s Davenport in real life.
“Computer information systems is really just the integration of business and IT. Those two fields are especially important in the 21st century.”
Living in a tech age and data-driven society, Davenport recognized that the skills attained through her work were applicable any and everywhere.
Even though she faced a challenging course load, Davenport remained active on campus, participating in the National Cyber League competition and becoming president of Beta Gamma Sigma. Additionally, she was selected as the first HBCU student from VSU’s honors college to study at the prestigious Oxford University in Oxford, England.
“When I got [to Oxford], I realized quickly that people who look like me and come from where I come do not normally end up in spaces like this,” said Davenport.
Jonathan Young, Director of Corporate Relations at VSU’s Reginald F. Lewis College of Business, teaches a course called “Career Launch,” utilizing his professional network of executives and CEOs to come and speak to the students. Incorporating resume workshops and elevator pitching, the guidance eventually led students to acquire internships — and in Davenport’s case – a full-time job with the Department of Defense.
As a defense contractor, Davenport is a data analyst, analyzing big data for top executives so they can make informed decisions about ensuring national security.
The importance of data analytics expands beyond the technical aspects but can also provide insight into the sustainability of the environment.
“Data Analytics can be used to make assessments on our carbon footprint, which can make great differences in our environment,” Davenport explained.
What does she see for herself in the future?
“As a defense contractor, I see the potential for Black people to succeed in this field,” said Davenport. “I want to create a pipeline program for Black students in HBCUs to learn about the Department of Defense and learn National Security.”
All three episodes of “The Rise: Color of S.T.E.M.” are available on theGrio.com
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