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August 17, 2020 |
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GGU Partners With Genesys Works to Support Underserved Students

This summer, GGU collaborated with nonprofit Genesys Works and Salesforce to teach low-income high school students introduction to business and data analytics online.

By Jenny McKeel
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Aaliyah Sibanda, a rising senior at Skyline High School in Oakland, loves using her people-skills. This summer, she developed new capabilities in an online course on business and data analytics at Golden Gate University.

The Bay Area program of Genesys Works, a national nonprofit that provides pathways to college and career success for underserved students, teamed up with Salesforce and Golden Gate University to offer a unique training program. GGU provided students with training in business and data analytics, while Genesys Works provided training in soft skills needed to navigate a corporate office environment—all offered online and a large portion sponsored by Salesforce. Students who successfully complete the GGU course gain college credits and a certificate that they can embed in their LinkedIn profiles.

“It’s really cool to see how you can use data analytics and Excel everywhere,” said Aaliyah. “For my final project, I’m researching scarcity marketing. I think the pandemic has provided examples of scarcity marketing with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. It’s interesting how data analytics comes into that.”

Business and Data Analytics at GGU

The summer course, Introduction to Business and Data Analytics, was taught to high school students participating in a program offered by Genesys Works that empowers high school seniors through classroom training and a year-long paid internship.

Genesys Works Bay Area (GWBA) Executive Director Sahaar Rezaie said the program’s mission is to lay the groundwork for students in underserved communities to be successful after high school. During the two-month training, Genesys Works gives students meaningful work experiences, training in hard and soft skills, and access to impactful relationships.

“That’s followed by a year-long paid internship with companies like Salesforce and Kaiser,’’ Rezaie said. “The internship is supplemented by ongoing support and resources that Genesys Works provides. Students then use their program experience as a springboard for college and career success.”

It’s a model that’s producing results. 96 percent of the students who complete the Genesys Works program go to college, 40 percent pursue degrees in STEM, and they graduate at a rate that’s 3.5 times higher than what you see in this demographic of students, the majority of whom are first-generation college goers.

Supporting Underserved Communities

“It’s a great opportunity to give underserved high school students basic skills they can use right away,” said Marc Singer, dean of Undergraduate Studies at GGU. “Understanding data analytics is essential to working in any field. While many Bay Area professionals earn high incomes, other folks are falling behind. We need to insert ourselves into the ecosystem of organizations addressing these challenges in our community.”

What’s different about the Genesys Works training offered this summer is that it’s all virtual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic heavily impacts the communities Genesys Works serves as well as its partners. In a survey of the demographic Genesys Works serves, 55 percent of those who responded said that at least one adult in their household had been laid off. More than 40 percent live in a household where they are the only member earning a steady paycheck, and 29 percent feared losing their housing.

Online Learning

For Aaliyah, the challenge of learning data analytics remotely was one of motivation.

“The virtual environment did make learning challenging. But since data analytics would be on the computer anyway, it wasn’t so much of a change,” said Aaliyah. “The hardest part is finding motivation at home. Trying to stay focused has been difficult, but I’m learning and getting better.”

Darien Sngoeun, another student in the GGU course, agreed that learning data analytics remotely was challenging but he’s developed valuable skills.

“I came into the class with no prior knowledge of anything,” said Darien. “Now I know the basics of data manipulation, exploratory data, what charts to visualize the data, and questions that should be asked to analyze the chart. By taking this class I’ve gained an interest in computer science and business.”

Innovative Partnership

The partnership with GGU, Genesys Works, and Salesforce is an example of a training opportunity that can be successfully offered online.

“As a Golden Gate University alumna, I’m personally very excited about this partnership with Genesys Works,” said GGU alumna Ebony Beckwith, EVP and Chief Philanthropy Officer at Salesforce. “Investing in our next generation and ensuring they have the skills needed to thrive in this technology-driven job market is crucial to building an inclusive post-COVID economy.”

In addition to providing virtual summer training, Genesys Works is working with businesses to offer students virtual internships that develop versatile skills that can be used in the future no matter where students are located. That way, students attending college in the Bay Area would be qualified to work remotely for a company based in another state.

“Thanks to the partnership with GGU, students that complete summer training have multiple options and pathways to success available,” Sahaar summarized. “Students walk away with three college credits and a micro-certification in data analytics from GGU. Students can then add their credits and certificate to their transcripts prior to applying to colleges. And we are hearing buzz from other cities about doing something similar. We feel this is a partnership that will enhance our program and benefit our students.”

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Had we known about these accusations—none from within GGU—we would not have selected him as a speaker.

We can’t undo that. But we can state unequivocally that behavior of this nature is anathema to our values, and that people who engage in it are not welcome at GGU. The #MeToo movement continues to expose the distressingly widespread nature of sexual harassment, violence, and abuse, and the time for indifference and silence has long passed. 

An investigation has begun into the allegations. Meanwhile, we cannot reinforce a system where women, men, and others with stories of abuse and predatory behavior remain silent because they are afraid to come forward. No one should be subject to an imbalance where their voices are judged less important than those who hold power.

This news is deeply disappointing to those who helped organize this event and those who participated in it. Going forward, we will work to ensure that guests to GGU clearly understand and acknowledge our values in advance, and that we strive to maintain an inclusive and safe environment for our community.

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This year, the Human Rights Campaign has reported at least 37 violent deaths of transgender and gender nonconforming people, the deadliest year on record. However, many other incidents may be unreported or misreported.

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What is your educational and professional background?

I have 2 BAs from Ithaca College in Cinema and Photography and English Literature, and I graduated from GGU in Arts Administration in 1997. Now I’m a doctoral student at GGU in Business Administration.  My professional background is fashion marketing and management as well as the management of arts organizations. I consult in strategic planning for orchestras, gallery spaces, festivals, theater and dance companies.

What do you like about teaching at GGU?

I love teaching at GGU. Students bring real life experience from a variety of career paths and they benefit from classroom learning that’s practical, applicable, and immediately implementable. It’s not theory we teach, but practice. Our students have complex lives with families, school, and work. It’s different from any other school at which Ive taught. Our students are mature and they’re committed to earning their degree. They challenge me in really good ways. They don’t just take my word, they really process it and dive into topics. They’re always willing to go above and beyond the requirements.

What is it like teaching teaching online?

GGU was ahead of the curve in terms of transitioning to online classes. Still, it was a huge transition. Its very important that we develop rapport, so I allow time to check in. We spend time talking about where students are physically or anything they want to share so that we build community.  I make weekly Zoom classes highly engaging with breakout rooms and activities that enable students to collaborate together on-screen. I strive to engage all learning modalities. Im very available so they can call, text, or email me. I make myself available to listen. Thats important.

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