Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego. Photo courtesy USD
Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego. Photo courtesy USD

The University of San Diego Thursday announced a $12 million gift from the foundation of a Silicon Valley technology pioneer to boost the interest of girls and minorities in so-called STEM fields of study.

The money comes from the foundation of Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel and co-creator of the integrated circuit. Noyce, who died in 1990, previously co- founded Fairchild Semiconductor.

The funding will help advance a national initiative to inspire and prepare more young people — especially girls and those in underserved communities — for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, according to USD.

“We are deeply grateful to the Noyce Foundation and the Noyce family for their generosity, and for putting their trust in us to carry out this important mission,” said USD President James Harris III.

“Working together in communities throughout the country, we will cultivate and support the next generation of scientists and engineers and encourage them to go out and change the world just as Dr. Noyce did,” Harris said.

The money will fund the STEM Next program, which will seek to improve teacher training, develop web-based tools used in STEM learning, and bolster STEM learning with investments in quality curriculum, in before- and after- school programs.

“This historic investment will enable us to dramatically expand our work and impact, giving more young people across the country greater access to STEM education,” said Scott Himelstein, director of the USD Center for Education Policy and Law, which will oversee STEM Next.

“Possessing such knowledge will be vital not only in their careers, but also in every day life where science and technology will play an ever- expanding role,” he said.

According to USD, U.S. Census Bureau figures put the number of women engineers at 12 percent — about the same as 15 years ago. African-Americans and Latinos receive 19 percent of computing bachelor’s degrees despite making up one-third of the college-aged population, according to the school.

USD said that if women were fully represented in the engineering and computer sciences workforces, there would be about 1.2 million additional engineers and 1.8 million more computer scientists, and if people of color were equally represented, there would be hundreds of thousands more.

—City News Service