The Fund II Foundation of Austin, Texas, has the stated mission “to preserve the African-American experience; safeguard human rights; provide music education; preserve the environment while promoting the benefits of the outdoors; and sustain critical American values such as entrepreneurialism.” To fulfill its first stated mission the philanthropic organization vows “to share the diverse and stirring stories of people of African descent, we support organizations that illuminate the richness of Black history and culture.”
Now the Fund II Foundation has teamed up with the United Negro College Fund to establish a new scholarship program to help African American students seeking careers in STEM fields. Over the next five years, The Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program will identify 500 African American high school students who are determined to pursue careers in STEM fields. These students will receive scholarships, internships, mentoring, and other tools to help them reach their goals. The Fund II Foundation is contributing $48 million for the STEM Scholars Program.
Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the UNCF, stated that “for years, the alarm bells have been ringing about the nation’s need for a more robust STEM education and career pipeline for people of color. African Americans are woefully underrepresented in the STEM workforce, and yet, are one of the largest consumers within the STEM economy. We are proud to partner with Fund II Foundation to break that cycle and give high-performing, highly motivated African American students a chance to become the next generation of STEM-industry creators through entrepreneurship and venture creation.”
Robert F. Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners and president of the Fund II Foundation, added that “throughout my career I have become increasingly concerned by the lack of diversity across the engineering and tech disciplines. Engineers by definition solve problems. Fund II Foundation’s direct goal is to work with UNCF to create more opportunities for African Americans to enter the tech workforce so that they can help lead us into the fourth industrial revolution.”
Mr. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. Before starting up Vista Equity Partners, Smith worked at Goldman Sachs.