On July 8, 2022, Tulsa Community College (TCC) and Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL), in partnership with edX, the global online learning platform from 2U, Inc., and SkillStorm opened the Cyber Skills Center (CSC) in Tulsa. The center will serve as an educational facility for adult students seeking cyber security and data science careers at no cost to Tulsa-area residents, which includes Tulsa County, Creek County, Okmulgee County, Wagoner County, Rogers County, and Osage County residents.
As TCC shared in a [July 8, 2022] press release, “Developed with edX’s Access Partnership initiative, the Cyber Skills Center model is designed to streamline the skill development and career transition process for underserved communities. The program offers a 24-week online accelerated training boot camp curriculum offered by Tulsa Community College, in partnership with edX, along with a paid apprenticeship upon graduation, and a suite of wrap-around services to make education and career transitions more accessible.”
The goal of bringing STEM to underserved communities is in part achieved by partnering with organizations such as Black Tech Street, a key community partner for the CSC. Tyrance Billingsley II, founder and executive director of Black Tech Street, stated, “It is our job to help disseminate the opportunity in the Black community and speak to the opportunities that this program and the cyber security field present as it relates to Black people getting jobs in tech.”
Billingsley explained, “The narrative of the tech industry has long been that of white men with Ivy League degrees so there has not been much of a narrative for Black people to internalize that says Black people can/are poised to succeed in this industry.”
As TCC states, “With an average entry-level salary in this field in excess of $63,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and hundreds of available jobs in the greater Tulsa metropolitan area, there is an extraordinary opportunity to leverage the demand for cybersecurity talent to create a new pathway to the middle class.”
Black Tech Street is focused on Black wealth creation, and the organization commented on the role of STEM in this goal: “You can build intergenerational wealth in 7-10 years [in STEM]…and by the year 2030, [research is] projecting be more than 4.3 million high paying vacant tech jobs due to a tech talent shortage…I plan to use STEM means for Black people to capitalize on these new opportunities.” Black Tech Street inspiration is George Washington Carver, Frank Greene, Simon Berry, Roy Clay as well as Black Wall Street during the early 20th century.
The program is estimated to support over 200 Tulsa students over the next three years.
The CSC also has artwork commissioned by the artist and an original founding member of the Black Moon Tulsa Collective, Alexander Tamahn, who believes his art aligned with Afrofuturism. He explained, “Afrofuturism is defined as a cultural aesthetic that explores the intersections of Black culture, science, and technology… technology and art coalesce more and more (when we consider NFT’s, QR Codes embedded in compositions, AR components, etc.)…my work… grounded in my Black experience, embodying Afrofuturism more and more as I seek to contribute authentic storytelling to the creative canon of Black contemporary artists.”
Tamahn wants students to think his art is evocative, visually eye catching, and he “want[s] the aesthetic elements of [his] work to honor and celebrate Blackness, reminding Black women especially that their natural hair is beautiful and will not hold them back or be deemed as unprofessional as they authentically take up space in the technology sector.”
When it comes to how technology has changed his work, Tamahn explained, “I had the privilege of working with Dr. Deborah Richards on The Greenwood Art Project last year…the components of our project were 3-D printed structures. Suffice to say, technology has been a real game changer, and is helping me significantly scale my practice.”
Alexander Tamahn’s process on the artwork at the CSC.
Nicole Burgin, media relations manager at TCC, commented, that currently applications are closed, as scholarships are limited, for the first group of Cyber Skills participants. The program is scheduled to launch in the fall. Students can still apply for the March 2023 cohort.