SEAS Student Hiwot Gizaghn

Building Engineering & Science Talent (BEST) Program at UDC

Hiwot Gezahegn’s journey to success includes a move from Ethiopia, earning a GED and now excelling as a computer science major at the University of the District of Columbia.  An entrepreneur at heart, Gezahegn has a passion for developing front and back end coding for websites. She aspires to develop her own company after graduation.

“UDC helped me to develop the skills that have gotten me to this stage,” Gezahegn said. “The training that I’ve received has helped me on the job. It’s a great environment.” 

UDC’s computer science program prepares students for high demand career opportunities in both the public and private sector. Students are given opportunities at companies including Google, the D.C. Metropolitan Transit Authority, the U.S. Patent Office, NASA, Xerox, Motorola, Cisco, AT&T and the National Institutes of Health.

The Bachelor of Science in Computer Science enables students to enter the computing profession at a technical-scientific level or to proceed to graduate programs in Computer Science. It is a four-year program with a heavy emphasis on mathematics and the study of algorithmic processes to describe and transform information.

Gezahegn is an intern at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), but she credits UDC for assisting her when her financial resources were depleted last semester.

“I was short of money and it helped me cover my tuition,” she said. “I am extremely thankful.”   

Gezahegn benefitted from funding from the Building Engineering & Science Talent (BEST) program, which is a coalition of seven federal agencies that provided seed funding in 2001 to broaden the participation of women and historically under-represented minorities in STEM. 

BEST is a non-profit organization selected by the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2005 as the principal contractor to support STEM outreach activities in higher education as well as k-12. 

The BEST program has been awarded more than $35 million in grants and contracts to execute a program that has encompassed strategic planning, management of external partnerships, community engagement, DoD laboratory outreach, communications, and evaluation.

Since 2009, BEST has built collaborative partnerships with dozens of non-profits and foundations to help achieve the goal of broadening participation of historically under-represented groups in STEM.

BEST has collaborated to provide scholarships, teacher training, and STEM activities for students under the auspices of DoD. The participating BEST institutions include the University of the District of Columbia, University of Maryland at College Park, University of Maryland of Baltimore County, Howard University and Prince George’s Community College.