Tech nonprofit founder Michael Ellison to deliver 2023 Harvey Mudd commencement address

A drawing of an empty podium with “2023” written on it. There is a group of students in graduation caps looking on. The whole image is drawn in an orange color palette.
(Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

On May 14, tech startup founder and social justice advocate Michael Ellison will speak at Harvey Mudd College’s 65th annual commencement ceremony. 

Senior class president Katie Wu HM ’23 said that the commencement speaker selection process started with nominations from the graduating class. Wu worked with Anna Ding HM ’23 and President Maria Klawe to create a shortlist. Seniors voted on their preferences, and based on their responses, Klawe reached out to potential speakers that aligned with those preferences.

Wu said that Ellison was chosen “for his impressive background and contributions to tech, education and social change.”

He is widely recognized for his role as CEO and co-founder of CodePath, a nonprofit organization devoted to preparing college students for successful careers in tech and creating “the most diverse generation of engineers, CTOs, and founders.”

According to Ellison, education for computer science and other tech fields is not nearly as accessible as it should be, stating that many underrepresented minorities drop out of computer science as a major or career path. Ellison himself grew up in a low-income household, where he had limited access to computer science classes and resources.

CodePath seeks to address this problem by supporting underrepresented college students as they navigate the world of tech, connecting them to internships, courses and other forms of career preparation.

“We believe the best way to grow the number of underrepresented minorities in tech is to make sure they persist in college CS programs through graduation,” Ellison states on the organization’s website. “This belief is producing exceptional results.” 

Since its inception in 2017, CodePath says they’ve helped nearly 20,000 students in their tech journeys. 64 percent of these students have identified as low-income or underrepresented minorities.

Ellison’s involvement in CodePath is a large part of the reason why he was selected as this year’s commencement speaker.

“[Ellison’s] organization’s mission and work align with Harvey Mudd’s own diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives over the past 15-plus years, particularly our goal to increase the diversity of our student body, faculty, staff and trustees,” said Timothy Hussey, chief communications officer at Harvey Mudd.

Aside from his influential role at CodePath, Ellison also served as a founding member of tech startup ClassicMetric and nonprofit organization Women Who Code.

Wu feels that Ellison’s commitment to forging change in the tech industry will resonate with students.

“I believe that Ellison’s personal story and passion for increasing diversity in tech will encourage us to reflect on the experiences that we’ve had during college and experiences that we will have after graduation,” Wu said.

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