Tuskegee, Al (September 8, 2016)—In efforts to recognize Historically Black Colleges and Univer
sities role in producing a high volume of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates, the U.S. Departments of Education, Office of Personnel Management, and Energy have cooperatively engaged in a national agenda allowing for interaction, input and commentary between students, corporations and stakeholders that encourages the progression of STEM focus within national academic institutions.
As an example of this initiative, Tuskegee University hosted an HBCU Partnership with STEM conference under the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering on September 8. The conference facilitated panel discussions with students, administration, Executive Secretary John King, Acting Director of Office of Personnel and Management Beth Cobert, Deputy Under Secretary of Science and Energy Lynn
Orr, Kim Hunter Reed, Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and representatives from highly acclaimed STEM companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing,
Exelon, Raytheon, IBM and Google.
In an interview on September 7, 2016, Secretary of Education, John King, was asked to give his perspective on why there is such a heavy focus on STEM field education. Sec. King explained that there is an “urgent need for employers in the STEM field.” (September 7, 2016) This was in reference to U.S.’s position in the international disparity of STEM productivity. As of now, the U.S. is in pursuit of becoming more competitive with the top STEM producers in the Eastern Hemisphere.
In addition to the international disparity, the U.S. economy is skewed. The Obama administration has targeted college graduates as the key to developing a strong middle class and, therefore, a stronger economy. The objective is to gain more
STEM graduates with more diverse backgrounds, in hopes of gaining more diversity in skill and intellect to increase production and innovation.
“There needs to be a heavier [STEM] emphasis in K12,” King says. The proposed idea is that an earlier introduction to STEM influenced education will have a long lasting effect on the student interest and potential after graduation.
This past May, Tuskegee University was awarded $500,000 from the National Science foundation in support of their “Fly High Your Math and Science Skills” program. The program was designed to emphasize the importance of science and math by using a flight simulator as an interactive learning tool. Programs such as these will not only increase interest in STEM fields, but also interest in STEM focused institutions—with hopes of those being HBCUs as well.
King explained, “… [HBCU’s] have a long track record of [producing] students who will succeed.” Sec. King also expressed the idea that the majority of successful companies have a higher level of diversity and that HBCUs are some of the biggest pools of diverse talent. Unfortunately, since many of them are private institution or contain small student populations they may be overlooked—hence the purpose of this conference.
In order to further this initiative Sec. King proposed emphasizing organizations such as HBCU All Stars that elevate prospering students at HBCUs; creating more partnerships with philanthropic organizations to fund those students;
and encouraging completion.