Cognizant: Grants for STEM Education

OVERVIEW: Cognizant, with around $9 billion in annual revenue, is one of the world’s leading information technology companies. While not a foundation, the company’s corporate sustainability program funds science education, including after-school and summer STEM programs and scholarships.

IP TAKE: Cognizant’s grants program is ideal for informal education centers emphasize fun. Grants support programs inspired by “maker” culture.

PROFILE: Cognizant started as the in-house technology department of business rating company Dun & Bradstreet until it split off in the 1990s. The company provides information technology, consulting, and systems outsourcing, and is regularly featured on lists of high-ranking and fast-growing technology companies. Like many corporations, Cognizant has a sustainability program (often called corporate social responsibility or corporate citizenship), and like many tech companies, it prioritizes STEM education, mostly through its Making the Future initiative.

Cognizant’s grantmaking is often driven by the ethos of the “maker" culture, a relatively new movement that strives for the democratization of tech, engineering, and manufacturing. It emphasizes creative projects and provides communal spaces—so-called “makerspaces”—that allow anyone to build nearly any project imaginable. That approach manifests in Cognizant’s grantmaking, which emphasizes “learning opportunities that are widely accessible, stimulating, enriching—and fun.” This funder’s giving philosophy is that when it comes to getting students involved in STEM careers, interest and excitement are more important than aptitude. 

Making the Future, Cognizant’s primary grantmaking program, funds makerspaces, science centers, and other after-school and summer programs. It was launched in collaboration with the Maker Education Initiative and the New York Hall of Science in 2011. Past Making the Future grantees include various after-school, in-school, and summer programs across the U.S. Grants typically range from $5,000 to $25,000 each.

Regarding target demographics, Cognizant avoids “specific requirements for socio-economic, gender, or race of targeted children,” but appears “to have at least half of the funded programs [serve] high-need communities, and encourage focusing on girls and minorities, both under-represented in the STEM disciplines.” Each round of grants starts with an RFP in the fall.  

The foundation also offers a scholarship program, which awards $5,000 to either undergraduate college students or the college-eligible. Similar to the education grants, the scholarships emphasize the maker movement’s principles and require documentation of hands-on projects that involve disciplines like electronics, robotics, 3D printing or computing. This award’s application period runs from the beginning of October through the end of March.

Finally, the company funds a few one-off initiatives. Cognizant supports Change the Equation, a CEO-led nonprofit to improve STEM learning. It is also “a founding member of US2020, an effort to mobilize one million STEM mentors annually by 2020” and a founding sponsor of the Maker Space in the New York Hall of Science.