Diversity & Inclusion

Agilent kicks off this year’s mentorship program with its first DSU Day

This STEM collaboration aims to take HBCU partnerships to another level.

DSU Day at Agilent. (Courtesy of Agilent)

Less than a week before the launch of HBCU Week 2023 in Wilmington, another HBCU event was happening at Agilent’s Little Falls location: DSU Day.

Last year, Agilent Technologies launched its Agilent Scholars program in partnership with Delaware State University (DSU), where students were paired with Agilent employee mentors.

Agilent is a global company with locations in nearly 30 countries and in 21 US cities that manufactures and provides instruments, software and related products and services for laboratories. That includes high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), a technology that separates and identifies components in liquids. As such, it’s a major source of STEM jobs in Delaware.

DSU Day kicked off year two of the program with a day of touring Agilent’s labs and manufacturing floor, as well as panels that explored the possibilities of STEM careers.

“This is the first time we’ve done a DSU Day,” said Greg MacKenney, VP and general manager of the supplies division at Agilent, during a break at the event. “It came out of the concept of: How do we improve the social capital aspect of the partnership? We’ve had conversations with DSU President Tony Allen, who was very adamant about this partnership being unlike other corporate partnerships.”

We’ve all heard the stories of corporate HBCU partners setting up a table on campus for a career day, taking some photos and never following up with the students who showed interest in the company.

“This relationship is different,” said Sally Frank, manager of Agilent Philanthropic Programs. “It’s not transactional, it’s holistic. The involvement of our employees is really key to the success of the students — the scholarships alone can’t really take the students to the next level.”

The relationship-building that mentorship and events like DSU Day offer the Agilent Scholars participants builds an industry network that can help them when they enter the workforce, whether they get jobs at Agilent or at another STEM company in the region (or beyond).

A group photo of Agilent Scholars and mentors.

The Agilent Scholars (Courtesy of Agilent)

The scholars, some in personalized white lab coats indicating their return to the program for a second year (all of the participants who didn’t graduate in the spring returned, Frank says), watched lab demos and took notes as Agilent scientists answered their questions. In one panel room, an employee who got her start at the company as an intern talked about what it was like transitioning from intern to full employee.

One scholar has become an intern so far, but the plan is to incorporate internships into the still-evolving program. Some of the scholars may eventually become Agilent employees themselves, but MacKenney says the ultimate goal is bigger than that.

“We would love to hire many of these Agilent Scholars, so hopefully that is something that materializes, as well as the internships,” he said. “But the other thing, too, was really making a contribution to the broader community. To enable the next generation of scientists to solve the issues — with respect to the environment, with respect to sustainability — and then, in many cases, becoming what I often identify as a living example for others.”

Some of the second-year scholars have said they plan on wearing their Agilent lab coats to their DSU classes this year, giving the program a new level of visibility on campus.

“That’s what we want,” MacKenney said, “to get to a place where there is passion and excitement around STEM in such a way that not only does it put Agilent in a stronger position, but really provides more diverse scientists into the world.”

Companies: Agilent Technologies / Delaware State University

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