Alvin and Nadine Givens have each seen significant success in their respective fields: Alvin, a graduate of Kelley School of Business, began his career as a commercial banker focused on technology companies and has recently become an expert in the sub sector of software companies that are embedding payments into their software as a second revenue source; whereas Nadine has risen to the senior ranks of the banking field as Marketing Director at PNC Wealth Management. Both have leveraged their professional successes into involvement with organizations focused on making positive changes in their communities.
Alvin’s prominence in the Indianapolis tech community lead to him becoming involved with the School of Informatics of Computing at IUPUI when he was asked to serve as head of Corporate and Institutional Giving for the School’s first Campus Campaign, where he got to know a number of SoIC’s senior staff and administrators. While working to determine the needs of Indianapolis-area IT businesses, Alvin and SoIC Executive Dean Mathew Palakal sparked the idea for what became iDEW, the Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce project, which works with high schools in inner-city Indianapolis as well as corporate partners and foundations to provide STEM education to high school students, providing a pathway to colleges and universities as well as exciting careers in IT. Alvin served as advisory board chair during the first years of the iDEW program as it grew and expanded. He and Nadine continue to serve iDEW students studying at SoIC through the creation of the Alvin and Nadine Givens iDEW Scholarship. I had the opportunity to speak to Alvin and Nadine about their paths to success, their involvement in the Indianapolis community, the iDEW program, and the creation of their scholarship.
A native Hoosier, Alvin recalls that his early experience working with technology came during his time in the military. “I grew up in rural Indiana near New Castle,” says Alvin. “I joined the Navy out of high school where I repaired electronic communications equipment and ships guidance information equipment.” Following his military service, he earned his degree in finance from Indiana University, and this finance background as well as his technology training from the Navy gave him a unique skill set, and he has spent the last 20 years of his career using this skill set to improve and innovate financial services for a number of growing tech companies. Alvin has been involved in the Indianapolis community for over 20 years as a member of TechPoint board dating back to 2000, as a co-founder of a Neuro Rehab Research Institute that is a partnership between Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana and the IU Medical School and is an NIH Model System, and he spent 6+ years as the co-head of an initiative to grow Healthcare IT companies in Indiana called ALHIT.
Nadine had also grown up in a small town, in her case in central Florida. She recalls, “[I] put myself through college working at a bank in my hometown. I attended Florida State University and Miami of Ohio. After graduation I met my Hoosier husband in a training program at The Northern Trust Bank in Chicago. I grew to love Indiana when we would visit his family. I appreciate the sense of community and the genuineness of the people.” As the Givens family settled in Indiana and advanced their way through their respective fields, both saw the importance of investing time to improve their community. Nadine has served on boards of directors for organizations like United Way, College Mentors for Kids, Indiana Repertory Theater, Walther Cancer Foundation, WFYI, and the 500 Festival, among others, and has been recognized by the Indiana Business Journal as a “Woman of Influence”.
While meeting with heads of Indianapolis-area tech companies in support of SoIC’s Campus Campaign, Alvin and SoIC Executive Dean Mathew Palakal asked about their concerns and needs for the future. Alvin remembers, “Two major themes kept surfacing: one, the future of the workforce, and two, the future of opportunities for inner city youth. Mathew and I put two and two together and co-founded the iDEW concept and name. The staff at IUPUI SoIC was fully onboard and dug in deep to create curriculum and to build partnerships with area inner city schools.” In his role as Chair of the iDEW Advisory Board, Alvin was instrumental in gaining corporate support for the project. “I recruited some of the best technology and diversity minds in Indiana to join an advisory committee. This committee did an excellent job of being liaisons and provided vital and timely feedback to the school during the creation and launch of the program.”
The program is now in its sixth year, serving eight area high schools and over 1,680 students, and Alvin is thrilled with how the program has progressed. “This opportunity to supply Indianapolis with a Informatics and Computer Science workforce with a diverse and inclusive local talent has been a home run,” Alvin says. “This was one of those ideas that was so obvious and yet it needed a home and IUPUI, and in particular Mathew and his staff, not only gave it a home they have built a nationally recognized and award winning program. More importantly the students are already entering the workforce and beginning to fulfill the dream—an “Information Technology-Diversity Enhanced Workforce.”
Following Alvin’s leadership of the iDEW Advisor Council, Alvin and Nadine determined an additional way to assist iDEW students. “Once the program was up and running we realized that after completion of the iDEW program and high school there would be a funding gap for many of our students whether for first dollar in assistance for other funding or scholarship opportunities or last dollar assistance; says Alvin. “Neither the school nor the IU Foundation at the time had a specific fund set aside for iDEW graduate scholarship assistance. My wife, Nadine, and I decided to create such a fund that would allow others to follow. It has been a very rewarding experience for us.” For Alvin and Nadine, diversifying the IT field not only leads to improvements in the lives of inner-city high school students, but to improvements in the IT field as well. Alvin states, “The creation of software programs is drawn from the way the creator(s) view usage of the software product and therefore how it is used. If the majority of the creators are from one or two ethnic groups or one gender this leaves all users with a narrow the lens of content and user interface. By expanding diversity into the ranks of the creators of software and user experience we begin to invite more users in and build a path for a more inclusion.” In providing support to iDEW students, the Givens’ have helped build this path. “Nadine and I have been fortunate in our careers and were able to put our children through college. However, we both put ourselves through school and know how distant the opportunity is for many families and students to even be able to try to put themselves through school. Supporting iDEW students with scholarship funding has been very rewarding as there is nothing greater than giving a motivate young person the tools that leads to a career and fulfillment of dreams. “