Finding Community

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Growing up in Nigeria, Oladipupo (Ola) Johnson did a lot of traveling with his family, but never to the U.S. He attended boarding school and learned about Georgia Tech from his roommate’s sister, who convinced him to apply.

He didn’t think he’d get in — but he did, and he arrived in the summer of 2014 for Georgia Tech’s Challenge Program, a summer academic preparation program for incoming underrepresented minority students.

In that same Challenge cohort was Brandon Gipson, a computer science major from Virginia who started programming in seventh grade. Gipson had Georgia Tech on his radar at an early age thanks to a teacher and an older student from his high school who had gone on to attend Tech. Like Johnson, Gipson never set foot on campus before coming to Challenge that summer.

For Gipson, culture shock hit once classes started. During Challenge, Gipson and Johnson had been part of a cohort of 73 students. When the fall semester began, their worlds changed.

“I came from a majority minority high school,” Gipson said. “In some ways, it was exciting to get to meet people from all over the world. But, at times, it was alienating.”

Gipson was feeling what numbers show: Though Georgia Tech awards more engineering degrees to women and underrepresented minorities than any other university in the U.S., black men comprise less than 5 percent of the resident student population.

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