Coding academy for underrepresented youth finds home at WMU

Contact: Liz VandenHeede
Lois Rodgers Renner-Lewis and Michael Renner-Lewis

Lois Rodgers Renner-Lewis, B.A.'83, M.A.'00, and Michael Renner-Lewis pose with a portrait of Dr. Elson Floyd in the lobby in WMU's Floyd Hall.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A Kalamazoo couple have pooled their combined professional experiences and skills to form a nonprofit organization that teaches computer coding, programming and other areas of technology to underrepresented youth in the Kalamazoo area. After about a dozen years of hosting classes around the area, the Milo Coding Academy began holding classes and club meetings at Western Michigan University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The academy was formed by Lois Rodgers Renner-Lewis, B.A.’83, M.A.’00, a long-time educator focused on literacy and retired Kalamazoo Public Schools teacher, and Michael Renner-Lewis, who has more than 20 years of experience as an information technology consultant for many major corporations.

After a group tour in April 2023, the two brought the Milo Coding Academy to WMU in Floyd Hall, and they have been here ever since.

“We’re so glad we can partner with Milo Coding Academy and help support the great work they are doing to inspire and support the next generation of coders and engineers. Their work to provide access and the opportunity to learn computing skills to a new community of talent is greatly needed,” said Dr. Steve Carr, associate dean for graduate programs and research and chair of the Department of Computer Science at WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“Our goal for Milo is to be a path for underrepresented students of all grades and ages to enter the field of technology and receive support by way of mentorships, scholarships and internships that will motivate them to not only seek a STEM career but succeed in a STEM career,” says Lois. “With confidence, awareness, and knowledge we hope more minority students choose to take and pass rigorous courses that lead to technology careers.”

In addition to offering technology resources, classrooms and lecture halls, the Floyd Hall namesake holds special meaning. Dr. Elson Floyd, the former president of WMU who was instrumental in the development of the Parkview Campus where Floyd Hall is located, was an inspiration to Lois and Michael early in their establishment of the Milo Coding Academy.

“He was not only the first African American president of the University, but accomplished many of his goals,” says Lois. “He was focused on increasing the number of underrepresented populations enrolled in STEM, which relates closely to Milo Coding Academy’s mission.”

Lois also holds another connection to the late Floyd. In 2000, she received her master’s degree in reading from Floyd during his time as president. A degree that, combined with Michael’s technology background and experience, helps them together reach, support and encourage students through their coding courses and introduce students to possible future technology careers.

Learn more about Milo Coding Academy

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