Intel Investing in Diverse and Inclusive Pipeline of Tech Law and Policy Talent

By Rhonda Foxx, Head of Social Equity Policy & Engagement at Intel

Today, Intel announced its pledge to North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a historically Black college and university (HBCU), with a $5 million grant over the next five years to help the school create a tech law and policy center. Intel will contribute legal and strategic expertise, faculty training, summer internships and Intel mentors for both students and faculty members. The initial allocation will help build a strong foundation for the center, supporting the recruitment and hiring of an executive director and key staff, as well as other startup costs for the center and supporting an endowed professorship, contributing towards need-based scholarships to help students experiencing financial hardship.

Please join me in a conversation with Intel’s General Counsel, Steven R. Rodgers, and Chancellor of North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Dr. Johnson O. Akinleye, on Intel’s pledge to create a new tech law and policy center at NCCU.

Rhonda Foxx: What inspired you to create this industry + HBCU partnership?
Steven R. Rodgers: In 2020, I spent a good amount of time reflecting upon and processing the inequities that came to light amidst the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Each of these tragedies serves as a painful reminder of the deadly implications of social and racial inequality.

Last spring, when our company declared that standing on the sidelines in the fight against inequality would not be an option, leaders throughout Intel fearlessly accepted this within our values. This partnership is a first step to addressing inequity by supporting a pipeline of diverse policy and legal practitioners. We can no longer tolerate the fact that only 5% of lawyers are Black and that the percentage of diverse policymakers is just as low. These statistics impact Intel’s diversity and inclusion efforts and hamper the goal of building a more equitable society. Diversifying legal and policy professions are vital to re-writing the discriminatory public policies and laws impacting our communities and employees.

RF: What does success look like for this partnership?
SR: Since their inception nearly 200 years ago, HBCUs have struggled to secure the proper funding and resources, all codified through inequitable public policies and laws. Despite the challenges, HBCUs still produce 80% of Black judges, 50% of Black lawyers and nearly 47% of Black women engineers. Intel proudly accepts our shared responsibility to address these inequities by forging substantive and strategic partnerships with HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. In 2017, Intel launched a three year, 4.8-million-dollar investment in six HBCUs to support STEM pathways. Our announcement today with NCCU builds upon those efforts by extending our support to non-technical career fields.

This partnership provides NCCU School of Law and its leadership with the funding, support, and resources they need and deserve. NCCU has a remarkable history, playing a pivotal role in the student-led civil rights movement and producing top leaders like Congressman GK Butterfield. Additionally, NCCU is near the Research Triangle Park – a budding southern tech hub. Success over the course of this five-year engagement, will be to establish a top-tier policy and law center that provides students with an accredited tech certification program. Ultimately, we hope to create an ecosystem of digital learning that helps expose and prepare students at NCCU and our nation’s other five HBCU law schools to corporate law and public policy.

RF: This isn’t your first bold stance to increase legal and policy diversity. Can you share a little bit about the recently instituted “Intel Rule”?
SR: At the top of the year, we began enforcing the Intel Rule, which states we will not use outside law firms in the U.S. that are average or below average on diversity. We know that an inclusive workforce results in better products and traditional hiring practices require corporate attorneys to have practical experience within law firms. Thus, enhancing Intel’s corporate policy and law diversity demanded the Intel Rule. Through this partnership, we hope to recalibrate the system and help build a curriculum and training experience that prepares law school graduates for careers in corporate practice.

The Intel Rule and this partnership will bring us one step closer to meeting Intel’s 2030 goals of increasing diverse representation within senior roles. They are prime indicators of our resolve to pioneer social equity as part of our commitment to enrich the lives of every person on Earth.

RF: When can the Eagles expect to see you in a classroom?
SR: As soon as travel guidelines allow! I’m proud to be a member of the Board of Visitors, love digging into the Rule of Law, and can’t wait for my first trip to campus. Two other Intel leaders are also serving in advisory roles – including our Deputy General Counsel, Allon Stabinsky, who’s known as a legal powerhouse. We look forward to hosting guest lectures and mentoring sessions. Eagles get ready; Team Intel is coming in full force.

Rhonda Foxx: Why did NCCU School of Law decide to create a Tech Law & Policy Center, and how many HBCUs have similar efforts?
Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye: The intersection of law and technology is important, especially as our society becomes more reliant on the technological capabilities that assist us in nearly every aspect of our lives. I believe it is crucial that minority and diverse students have access and opportunities for success in this field. North Carolina Central University’s School of Law has been at the forefront of delivering contemporary, relevant programs for our students and our external community. Intel’s commitment to establishing the Tech Law and Policy Center helps further this rich legacy. This partnership makes NCCU the only HBCU and only law school in the country with a Tech Law Center that focuses on technology disparities and social justice. As one of only six Historically Black Colleges and Universities with a School of Law, we are uniquely positioned to carry forward the important work of developing solutions that address tech equity, while creating a more diverse workforce in the legal profession.

RF: What does Intel’s support of the Center’s creation mean for NCCU, your students, and the community?
JA: Intel’s investment in North Carolina Central University aligns with the institution’s strategic priority to develop collaborations and partnerships. Establishment of the Tech Law & Policy Center enables us to further expand the integration of innovation, research and entrepreneurship on campus, as well as offer resources to our community as part of our core mission of service. Intel’s five-year commitment creates sustainable support for the Center and offers generous scholarship opportunities for our talented student-scholars.

RF: What makes this partnership different from others?
JA: NCCU’s partnership with Intel is unique because it combines the assets and legal talent of the faculty, staff and students at our top-ranked School of Law with the acclaimed resources and revolutionary innovation developed by Intel. This corporate partnership with a Fortune 50 company opens new doors of opportunity for our students, giving them access to industry trailblazers and other members of the C-suite. The exchange of ideas and strategies will positively impact both NCCU and Intel, generating a wealth of new and diverse influencers within the fields of technology, law and other industries.

RF: We know that HBCUs matter, but can you share for our readers, in your expert opinion, what makes NCCU and HBCUs in general so very special?
JA: Historically Black Colleges and Universities are integral to our nation’s heartbeat. For more than 180 years, HBCUs collectively and individually have educated scholars who have transformed our communities and changed our world. Our graduates often become “firsts” in their chosen industries—from business and law to education, research, and state and federal government.

North Carolina Central University is a model among HBCUs for our academic distinction, our history of game-changing innovation and the cutting-edge research we produce for North Carolina, the United States, and the world. Now, after more than a century, we remain focused on student success and delivering high-quality, competitive talent to the global marketplace. Our partnership with Intel Corporation will enable us to continue this important work that serves the citizens of our state and beyond.