Google, the Web search engine company, has provided funds to fully support four Virginia Tech students from Haiti to pursue graduate degrees in computer science. 

Sherley Codio of Cap-Haitian, Fabrice Marcelin and Jennifer François, both of Port-au-Prince, and Mario Calixte of Les Cayes
will continue their studies in computer science at Virginia Tech thanks to the support. A fifth student, Benoit Bernadel of Fond-des-Blancs, has received a full, merit-based scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.

The five graduating seniors came to Virginia Tech in April 2008 through a partnership between the Office of International Research, Education, and Development, Virginia Tech’s Department of Computer Science, and the Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haïti (ESIH) in Port-au-Prince to strengthen the school’s computer science program. Their studies at Virginia Tech were part of a three-year initiative funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development through Higher Education for Development to train a new generation of technical professionals for Haiti.

All students were in the United States at the time of the Jan. 12 earthquake, two of them on a service project to help build homes in communities along the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. One ESIH professor and 13 students were killed in the earthquake, and the ESIH building was completely destroyed. Nonetheless, classes at the school resumed on March 15, held under a tent.

“The earthquake that struck Haiti totally changed our plan,” said Marcelin. “Since then, the next step on our life was very uncertain.” Receiving word of the Google award, “was the best news ever,” he said. “We were so happy that we started screaming and spent the whole night talking about it.”

After completing a master’s degree at Virginia Tech, Marcelin, like his fellow students, expects to return to Haiti. He plans to build a company related to computing, to help get the country on a technological track. François also plans to return to Haiti. “My country needs entrepreneurs to invest and create more jobs. Haitian women have a history of entrepreneurship. We will help rebuild the country.”

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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