Student Testimonials

May 30, 2017 | Exposure, HBCU@SXSW

It’s not every day that a student gets the opportunity to attend SXSW without spending a

dime. When you’re worried about tuition, food, housing, and the unknown expenses that

college undoubtedly incurs, who has $1,000+ to spend on a ticket?


It’s for this reason that HBCU@SXSW works with companies and organizations to

sponsor the next generation of leaders, so they can dream without strings attached.

Giving their time and being open to new possibilities in tech is all that is asked.

SXSW is the premier festival for music, media, and the interactive, and last year for

HBCU@SXSW 2017, Opportunity Ecosystem sponsored 100 students to attend the

event, filled with speakers, tech leaders, investors, and influencers. For many, it was a

whole new world.


Here’s what some of our attendees of the 2017 program had to say about their experience.


Imani Ward

School: Spelman College

Major: Comparative Women’s Studies with a Focus on Hip Hop Feminism

On what she gained from the program:

“I made a lot of good connections and gained a lot of experience. Now I can articulate what I want to do better. I was kind of scared going in because I wasn’t like everyone else. I wasn’t a STEM major. I’m one of the artsiest people around. They definitely made me feel really comfortable, and it showed me that there are more opportunities out there. I don’t have to go and stay within my field—there are other things that I can do.”

Faisal Gedi

School: Georgia Institute of Technology

Major: Computer Science

On learning new skills:

The best thing that I learned was more soft skills, learning how to network better. I really enjoyed the group of students that were there. They also had a lot of ambition and were also minorities. I actually don’t attend an HBCU, but I applied regardless. There were actually a decent amount of students from predominantly white institutions. There aren’t a lot of black or Latino students at my school– it was good to be surrounded by others who looked like me who are also striving toward important goals. The entire environment was so inspiring that I became close to people working in the cohort, and now we’re working on a startup together.”

Khrys Hatch

School: Fisk University

Major: Business Administration

On students who might have reservations about applying:

“My view is go for it. If it looks like something that you might not be into, at least apply to it. Being involved in HBCU@SXSW opened my mind to different experiences. It’s a great opportunity to meet other students, and leaders in the field—Rodney Sampson himself, Steve Case, people like that. You can’t beat having an experience like that. Even if you’re not even sure about technology, it’s a great place to understand what the field is about, and get a snapshot of what it’s like.”

Kelsey Gallant, Spelman College

“HBCU@SXSW has set the stage for the rest of my career. I want to thank this program and all of its affiliates for giving me the direction I so needed. I knew my whole life that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just didn’t know how! Through the different panels HBCU@SXSW setup along with all the resources at the SXSW conference, I now have a more clear picture on how to get the job done. I also now have a network of amazing Black and Latino students who also are aspiring to become the people who change the face of technology! Thank you so much for everything you have done. I can assure you that I will make good use of every ounce of knowledge I have acquired.”

Jordyn Smith, North Carolina A&T University

“HBCUSXSW was an amazing, loaded experience. I am the first and only representative from my school but this is an opportunity that I would love to share with many others from my university. I am grateful for the connections and more importantly the experience.”

Ferrisa Connell, Florida A&M University

“I am so grateful for my experience at HBCU@SXSW! I plan to pursue a career in the tech industry and I feel like this conference exposed me to the people, resources, and knowledge I need to be successful!”

Mariah Cowling, Spelman College

“I was truly honored to be one of 100 HBCU students, who are our brilliant future leaders in tech, to be selected for this life-changing occasion. As a student who is excited by the intersections of STEAM, health, and coding, I was able to gain many invaluable experiences at SXSW. Between learning more about the Internet of Things, AI, and onsite genetic sequencing, I had the opportunity to network with many leading companies in technology including Google, Snapchat, Microsoft, Twitter, and countless others. From this experience and the exposure to numerous entrepreneurs, I am more invigorated than ever to continue and amplify my pursuits towards innovation. Even more, HBCU@SXSW has provided a community and network for brilliant, black students in technology which is one of the most sacred things one could create as we enter a new and exciting phase in technology. I cannot thank the teams at Opportunity Hub, Huddle Ventures, and all of the HBCU@SXSW sponsors enough for this impactful experience!”