10:12 AM

Qualcomm Partners With CSUSM to Build Diverse Workforce Pipeline

By Bradi Zapata

Qualcomm, an innovative powerhouse in technology and a long-standing partner of Cal State San Marcos, has made it its mission to create diversity within the workforce. How is the company doing this? By investing in extraordinary CSUSM students and advocating for creative rights for STEM inventors. 

Qualcomm is supporting CSUSM – specifically the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (CSTEM) – through The Inventor’s Patent Academy (TIPA), an engineering capstone program, an intro to coding technical interview workshop and engineering scholarships.  

In 2022, Qualcomm partnered with Invent Together, a coalition of universities, nonprofits, companies and other stakeholders dedicated to understanding the diversity gaps that exist in invention and patenting. The company launched TIPA to close these gaps, through public policy and private initiatives. The free course guides inventors through the process of obtaining a patent, particularly targeting potential inventors who are underrepresented in the patent-heavy science and engineering fields, including women, people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ+, people from lower-income communities, people with disabilities, or those with backgrounds that did not allow exposure. 

“Currently in the United States, only 13% of inventors listed on patents are women, while Black, Latinx and Indigenous people account for less than 8% of all U.S. inventors, and children of families in the top 1% of income are 10 times more likely to patent in their lifetimes than children in the bottom half of family income,” said Emma Lacey, senior program manager at Qualcomm.  

“It’s so important for us to give back to students and invest in making the current workforce more diverse because we are of the firm belief that everyone should have the opportunity to invent and seek out opportunities for upward mobility in their personal and professional lives. We want to foster a larger pool of innovators because diverse minds solve diverse problems, and that benefits the whole of society.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, intellectual property supports more than 45 million jobs and contributes over $6.6 trillion to the nation’s economy. Invent Together has found that including more Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC) and women inventors in the early stages of innovation would boost the U.S. economy by up to $1 trillion every year and would fuel U.S. economic growth, social mobility and intergenerational wealth. 

In developing TIPA, Qualcomm was motivated by the belief that anyone can invent, that every inventor can learn to patent and that strong patent rights empower individual inventors to transform the world in ways that benefit all. 

“Qualcomm gave CSUSM a gift to do some activities to try to figure out what is the best way to implement TIPA in higher education,” said Scott Gross, CSUSM's associate vice president of industry partnerships.  “So we are doing three things: facilitating a faculty learning community, appointing a faculty to pilot the program in classes and introducing TIPA modules during a conference in January.

“I firmly believe that faculty at CSUSM are discovering new intellectual property daily, and aside from sharing it with students, they might be uncertain about what to do with these findings. Based on the Bayh-Dole Act, when a faculty member discovers intellectual property, it is the university's responsibility to make sure it gets into the hands of the public so that society can benefit from it. And at CSUSM, we take that responsibility very seriously.” 

Aside from TIPA, Qualcomm is impacting the STEM community at large by investing in CSUSM students through mentorship and scholarships.  

Since founding its engineering program in 2018, CSUSM has focused on creating a pipeline of diverse graduates who are career-ready. These opportunities are not only life-changing for many students, but also transformative for the industry.  

At CSUSM, 53% of engineering students are first-generation, there has been a 50% year-over-year increase in female students, and 47% identify as Latinx, a striking number since the national percentage of Latinx engineering graduates is only 9% and the percentage of graduates within the California State University system is only 26%.  

CSUSM and Qualcomm aim to increase representation and success in engineering. This is accomplished by teaching students skills through the engineering capstone program, teaching them how to obtain a job through coding technical interview workshops, and supporting their degree completion through engineering scholarships. 

When an opportunity to go to college presented itself, Daniel Beltran, an electrical engineering student and Qualcomm scholarship recipient, paired his life experience as a farm laborer with his savviness in mathematics. With so many possibilities in these careers, Beltran felt the weight of too many crossroads. That was until a field trip to Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego showed him a path in engineering that he was confident in.  

“Qualcomm's commitment to empower and support the new generation of engineers is inspiring,” Beltran said. “Receiving an award from them has allowed me to plan out my educational career in a secure way.” 

For students, seeing active industry projects is motivating. During their final academic year, students discover innovative solutions to real-world problems of their choice while connecting with these industry partners as part of the engineering capstone project. For the 2023-24 academic year, Qualcomm is funding three of these projects, and a professional from its team is providing industry access and mentorship. 

Ten students in need of support also will receive $2,500 scholarships from Qualcomm.  

“Being awarded this scholarship has made it easier to continue pursuing my educational goals, and I will be able to breathe easy knowing that the Qualcomm engineering scholarship made it easier to remain focused on my studies,” said Deavan Contreras, an electrical engineering student who received the scholarship this academic year. 

“Serving in the Navy, I was fortunate to have provided medical support to the Marines as we completed two tours of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The memories I have of those times bring a sense of pride as well as self-reflection on the hardships that are faced in military operations. Having firsthand knowledge of the technology that allowed us to complete our missions inspired me to continue my education, and every semester that I complete is a step closer to becoming a contributing member of society as an engineer.”

Finally, Qualcomm and CSTEM are piloting an “Intro to Technical Coding Interview” workshop that will teach third-year students majoring in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science and information systems how to ace their technical coding interview. This skill is imperative for them to earn a summer internship and career opportunity. 

Through each of these robust exercises, CSUSM scholars steward the future of STEM in the region. In fact, eight out of 10 students stay in the region after graduation, a significant win for the advancement of Southern California. 

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314