Two Grambling State University Students Named IBM Masters Fellows

Program Provides Financial Support for Graduate Students



GRAMBLING, La – January 13, 2021 – Two graduate students at Grambling State University have been awarded IBM Masters Fellowships.

Crystal Shelling, a psychology major from Monroe, Louisiana, and Elliott Howard, a social sciences student from Grambling, Louisiana, have been named recipients of the awards, each valued at $10,000.

“Crystal Shelling is an emerging scholar who has traversed many challenges to arrive at this point in her academic life. She has been negatively impacted by the very subject of her research, but she has persisted,” Dr. Kevin Washington said about his nominee.

“Her resilience coupled with her insight and enhanced by her compassion and passion to make a difference within the world is encouraging,” he said. “Crystal is destined to positively impact the mental health field because she has intellect and empathy. She makes us all want to do better for ourselves and others.”

Shelling said the fellowship will allow her to complete her program without worrying about financial assistance.

“Graduating with my master’s degree has been a dream of mine and my mother for years, and I now proudly tell my mother with a sincere smile, ‘I can finish now,’ ” she said.

Howard said he has long been interested in studying race in America and is focusing on critical race theory in society.

“This fellowship will help me accomplish a great deal,” he said. “With it, I will be able to finish out my master’s program without funding being an issue. It will allow me to keep buying literature to help my understanding of my field.”

He was nominated by Dr. Matthew Sheptoski, who said, “Elliott is a standout among his cohort.  I have known him for a number of years; he has taken countless courses with me, presenting his research on several occasions to the Grambling community as well as attending and presenting at regional sociology conferences.  I am consistently impressed with his perseverance and incredible attitude, both of which are unwavering.”

The 2020 IBM Masters Fellowship program supports IBM’s long-standing commitment to workforce diversity and encourages the nomination of women, minorities, and others who contribute to diversity. Specifically, this innovative new IBM Fellowship seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minority students from disadvantaged backgrounds focusing on strategic areas of science.

“We believe that in order to expand opportunity for diverse populations, we need a diverse talent pipeline of the next generation of tech leaders from HBCUs. Diversity and inclusion are what fuels innovation, and students from HBCUs will be positioned to play a significant part of what will drive innovations for the future like quantum computing, cloud, and artificial intelligence,” said Carla Grant Pickens, Chief Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer, IBM.

As part of the Skills Academy Academic Initiative in Global University Programs, a multi-year program, IBM is donating more than $100M in assets, including university guest lectures, curriculum content, digital badges, software, and faculty training.

The IBM Skills Academy is a comprehensive, integrated program designed to create a foundation of diverse and high demand skill sets that directly correlate to what students will need in the workplace. The learning tracks address topics such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, blockchain, design thinking, and quantum computing.

The HBCUs who are part of the Skills Academy Academic Initiative include Clark Atlanta University, Fayetteville State University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Southern University System, Stillman College, Virginia State , and West Virginia State University.

For more program details and FAQs, go to

About Grambling State University 
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university founded in 1901. The University has been accredited by 13 accrediting associations and holds accreditations in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. The 590-acre campus offers 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs. Grambling State University is a member of the University of Louisiana System. For more information, visit