IBM Awards Two Grambling State University Students with $10,000 Inaugural Masters Fellowship

Students Selected for One-Year Fellowship Program as Part of IBM initiative to Promote Equal Access to Education

By Bobbie Handcock | Office of Communications

Elliott Howard

Elliott Howard

Crystal Snelling

Crystal Snelling

GRAMBLING, La. – May 7, 2021 – Grambling State University is excited to announce that Crystal Shelling, a psychology major from Monroe, Louisiana, and Elliott Howard, a social sciences student from Grambling, Louisiana, are recipients of IBM’s Masters Fellowship Award. Each award is valued at $10,000 and recognizes exceptional HBCU students who want to make their mark in disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), hybrid cloud and quantum computing.

In the inaugural year of its Masters Fellowship Program, IBM selected 15 students across nine HBCUs who represent a variety of majors and are advancing technology in several interest areas, including hybrid cloud, quantum computing, AI, open-source technology, cyber security, systems and data science. As part of the fellowship, IBM provides award recipients with $10,000 to support their graduate studies and progress their work in these areas.

“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.”

Howard 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.”

IBM’s Masters Fellowship was created in 2020 to address the gap many students face when pursuing advanced degrees and to improve diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Although HBCUs produce 27% of all African-American STEM graduates, historically Black colleges remain under-resourced and heavily rely on government funding for support. Through this program, IBM aims to combat this issue and drive more access to opportunities and increase representation in the tech industry.

“HBCUs are a pillar of American history and have long supported equal access to educational opportunities,” said Valinda Scarbro Kennedy, HBCU Program Lead, IBM Global University Programs. “That’s why IBM believes it is crucial we invest in under-represented talent and commit to intentional programs and collaborations with HBCUs. This program helps provide a pathway for some of the most talented students to pursue an advanced degree and work on pressing business and societal issues. It also helps reduce the financial burden that may prevent students from taking the next step and enables more diverse talent to gain access to skills that can unlock economic opportunity and prosperity.”

This fellowship extends IBM’s broader mission to increase the number of underrepresented minorities across all industries while creating increased opportunities for HBCU students to acquire education and skills that align with industry needs and trends in a digital economy.

About  IBM
IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud, AI and business services provider. It helps clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. For more information, visit:

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

For more information, contact:
Kimberly Hibbert
IBM U.S. Media Relations

Tisha Arnold, Grambling State University