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STEM Diversity and HBCUs-A Pipeline to Employment and Entrepreneurship.

According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) offer culture, a rich history, and rigorous academic programs.  Most importantly, they prepare students for leadership and life after graduation.  There are approximately 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the nation and nine percent of all African American college students attend HBCUs. In 1965, Congress officially defines an HBCU as a school of higher learning whose principal mission was, and is the education of African Americans, and was accredited and established before 1964.

In December 2012, the Obama Administration announced that increasing the number of students who receive undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by 1 million over the next decade has been designated as a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goal-one of a limited number of such articulated goals designed to focus cross-agency coordination and to encourage best practices among federal agencies with complimentary missions.  This CAP initiative signals steps toward addressing recommendations made by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in a report to the President entitled Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

If there ever was a debate about the significance of HBCU’s succeeding, it would seem to be that this (CAP) public policy alone justifies the critical need for HBCUs. But at the same time, the CAP appears to place a new and significant responsibility on HBCU leadership, and teaching practices of the HBCUs in order to meet the expectations of the CAP policy. Imagine trying to increase the number of students in America who receive STEM degrees, and not have Historically Black Colleges and Universities around to engage, educate, and empower students of color?  The Thurgood Marshall Fund believes that All HBCUs play a critical role in the American system of higher education. For most of America’s history, African Americans seeking a college education could only get it from an HBCU. It would seem to go without saying that without HBCU’s, corporations would struggle to reach their diversity goals, and many corporations may consider abandoning the idea of diversity in the workplace as a corporate culture. While the 100 or so HBCUs represent just 3 percent of the nation’s institutions of higher learning, they graduate nearly 20 percent of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees.  In addition, the institutions graduate more than 50 percent of African American professional and public school teachers. These trends alone, nullify the notion that HBCUs are not a necessary fabric to our higher education system.

So if STEM education is a critical aspect of our 21st century global economy, and diversity is significantly lacking among minority students in STEM, OGTV asks the question in our feature story today: Is STEM Diversity and HBCUs, a pipeline for producing STEM professionals, or based up on today’s challenges facing many of these institutions, is STEM Diversity, a pipe dream?

In July 2013, an Alliance of Former Presidents and Chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities wrote a letter to President Obama making specific recommendations and requested several areas for the Administration to consider and ultimately implement.   The letter conveyed their professional understanding of the nature of the HBCU challenge, and indicated that the Alliance members were best positioned to speak candidly and objectively on the subject. In summary, the letter of request, and recommendations confirmed that "our nation can not realize the President's goal of increasing the proportion of Americans with high quality college degrees, certificates, or other credentials to 60 percent by 2025; having an excellent, diverse, and technologically prepared workforce, and make America "built to last," without thriving HBCUs.  One year after this Alliance letter was submitted, and as we enter into a new school year faced with more questions than answers about HBCU’s and STEM Diversity, it would seem that once and for all, plans need to turn into action, and a declaration on how HBCUs will remain relevant must be made NOW!  

OGTV will explore this very important topic, and seek to engage stakeholders who are committed to the advancement of STEM Diversity, education, and a working formula for success for our institutions who have legacy, but today, have a greater 21st century responsibility to best prepare our diverse workforce for the global economy. For the record, OGTV is a strong proposal of promoting the excellence of an HBCU education, and hence the reason that we bring this story to the screen.  It is our belief that to engage answers, to educate the public and private sector about the HBCU realities, and effectively empower industry, government, and academia to help Universities help themselves, we demonstrate our commitment to the process by brining this story to our outlet.  

OGTV would like to thank University of Alabama STEM student, Marcus Johnson for his contribution to this discussion.  OGTV welcomes comments, blogs, and sharing of video that we can review, and utilize as we further this important topic for the sole purpose of contributing to solutions and moving the needle of progress.   Stay tuned for more filming of this topic on our new show "Discussing DC with OGTV."

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