Sep 24, 2021

Investing in STEM Education

The Medtronic Foundation and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund are providing support for 50 scholarship recipients enrolled in historically Black colleges and universities

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Makayla Tejeda’s mother lost her job. Suddenly, Makayla’s future at Howard University seemed uncertain.

But then the Medtronic Foundation and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) awarded Makayla a four-year scholarship, allowing her to continue her studies at Howard, one of the nation’s top historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU’s).


“This scholarship means more to me than words can even explain,” said Makayla, who hopes to develop a drug to help dementia patients someday. “To be honored by such a world-renowned and prestigious foundation that is continuously making efforts to enhancing human health is a dream because that’s exactly what I want to do with my career.”

Makayla is one of 50 students to be awarded with a first-ever scholarship funded by the Medtronic Foundation to help support students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at HBCU’s. These scholarships were created through a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and a medical technology corporate foundation.

“The Medtronic Foundation is committed to growing representation of underserved and underrepresented populations within the STEM workforce,” said Paurvi Bhatt, president of the Medtronic Foundation. “With the Thurgood Marshall College Fund as a partner, we know we can reshape the future together to create a stronger, more diverse STEM pipeline for the future workforce in health and technology, which benefits us all.”

Medtronic employees lead the way

paurvi bhatt
Paurvi Bhatt, president of the Medtronic Foundation

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund scholarships are part of a larger effort by the Medtronic Foundation to elevate its focus on STEM and promote equity and representation with the goal of improving the lives of underserved communities.

Earlier this year, the Foundation announced a $16 million commitment to partnerships and organizations with similar goals including the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and two Minneapolis-based groups, the Northside Achievement Zone, and the People’s Center Clinics & Services, among others.

Liz Lund, the Foundation’s director of strategic operations and community investment, said what makes these partnerships impactful is focus on representation and the level of engagement from Medtronic employees.

“That’s really the multiplier effect, or the secret sauce, that goes into these partnerships,” she said. “Our employees have so much to contribute to their local communities and these partnerships enable them to have a positive impact in the community and to grow personally and professionally.”

To support the Thurgood Marshall College Fund partnership, the African Descent Network (ADN), a Medtronic employee resource group, donates time and resources to help the scholarship recipients navigate their academic journeys and exposes them to professional opportunities provided by a STEM education.

Keisha Houston, who is spearheading the Thurgood Marshall College Fund partnership initiative for ADN, said the group has created an immersive, impactful experience for the scholarship recipients this academic year.

Makayla Tejeda, Howard University

“Our volunteers with the African Descent Network are happy to go on this journey with scholarship recipients,” Houston said. “We look forward to having students participate in upcoming programs that focus on professional development and learning more about the employment opportunities that a STEM degree can provide.”

Mentoring the STEM leaders of tomorrow

One of the main components the scholarship is a mentor/mentee program. Each of the scholarship recipients will be paired with a Medtronic employee volunteer who will provide guidance, motivation and emotional support.

Rita Guzzetta, vice president of regulatory affairs for Cardiac Rhythm Management at Medtronic, has served as a mentor through ADN’s Leadership Inclusion from Mentorship to Sponsorship (LIFT) program and will soon become a mentor to one of the scholarship recipients.

She said she’s grateful for the opportunity to help college students see the potential benefits that a STEM career like hers can offer.

“If I can have any impact that leads to someone’s success, that’s all I need to fill my bucket,” Guzzetta said.

Even though the scholarship program is just now getting underway, a few of the recipients say they already see firsthand how a healthcare technology company can improve the lives of patients, like Matthew Cofer, a freshman at Howard University and a cancer survivor.

“To know a company like Medtronic that uses the principles that I hold dear in science, technology, engineering and math to give back to people who are in situations like mine, it means a lot,” said Cofer, who is studying to become a mechanical engineer. “While I never required anything as advanced as what Medtronic produces, I saw kids every single day who did. For Medtronic and the Medtronic Foundation to be supporting my education, it means the world to me.”

Putting Purpose into Action
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