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Pictured from Left to Right are Derek Roberts, Cory May, Gigi Barnett, Brandon Rogers.

FRANKFORT — After performing well as a team in the IBM Watson HBCU Hackathon in Atlanta, individuals have reaped career rewards as a result.

Seniors Brandon Rogers, Gigi Barnett and Cory May have received full-time offers to work at IBM, while sophomore Derek Roberts has received an offer for a summer internship.

According to Stephfon J. Walton, client care project executive and technical support lead at IBM, the “Kentucky State participants proved themselves to be outstanding students, polished, well-prepared and technically sound.”

In fact, Walton added, “as measured by our CodeVue assessment, several of your students scored at the top among the group of over 100 students attending the Atlanta HBCU Hack.”

As a result of their performances, the students were offered full-time jobs or internships with IBM.

According to Dr. Frank A. Richardson, assistant professor of computer science at Kentucky State, officials at IBM have been in contact with the department to help focus curriculum to meet the needs of organizations like it.

“The orientation of Kentucky State’s curriculum is particularly well-suited for the format of the Atlanta event,” Richardson said. “Not only were the technical abilities of the competitors challenged, but the format required the students to rely heavily on their imagination, critical thinking and presentation skills.”

The winning idea, he said, was proposed by Derek Roberts based on his experiences in political science courses. Cory May was able to utilize his knowledge of marketing to identify profit areas that could be generated by a product, Richardson said.

“The technical expertise and tenacity of Gigi Barnett and Brandon Rogers allowed the team to develop a product prototype that was truly impressive,” Richardson said.

Richardson said Kentucky State offers students the opportunity to have professional relationships with faculty that might not exist at larger schools. For example, he and Rogers partner on projects outside of class that allow Richardson to mentor and share professional experiences.

Richardson said he and other faculty have worked closely with Barnett to leverage her work ethic into a strong foundation of skills, making her an excellent employment candidate.

“Drs. Jens Hannemann and Chi Shen were very active in the mentoring of Cory May and Derek Roberts,” Richardson said. “While a rarity at large schools, student-faculty experiences such as these are the norm at Kentucky State University.”

Richardson said several of the department’s freshman and sophomore students are very interested in next year’s event.

“I believe we will submit even stronger team(s) next year,” Richardson said.


Kentucky State University, building on its legacy of achievement as a historically black, liberal arts, and 1890 Land Grant University affords access to and prepares a diverse population of traditional and non-traditional students through high-quality undergraduate and select graduate programs. Located in Kentucky, KSU offers associate (two-year) degrees in two disciplines, baccalaureate (four-year) degrees in 24 disciplines, master’s degrees in eight disciplines, and one advanced practice doctorate in nursing. KSU has 129 full-time instructional faculty members and more than 2,000 students.