On Oct. 7, the Department of the Navy’s HBCU/MI Program wrapped up the first in a series of Naval Opportunity Awareness Workshops for Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MIs) that was held at Howard University’s new Interdisciplinary Research Building in Washington, D.C.
Representatives from 10 HBCUs, industry, non-profits, the government and military organizations came to the workshop to learn about untapped opportunities for HBCU/MI students and faculty to participate in research at naval laboratories and naval warfare centers around the country. The Navy invested approximately $4 million in internship and research grants to HBCU/MIs in FY 2015 and expects to invest the same in FY2016.
“This workshop aimed to raise awareness of opportunities and ensure that HBCU/MI leaders have the information needed to encourage their students and faculty to apply for all available Navy grants, scholarships, fellowships and internships,” said Anthony Smith Sr., the Navy’s HBCU/MI program manager at ONR.
That information is exactly what Dr. Clytrice Watson, interim dean and professor of biology for the College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology, took back to Delaware State University.
“Coming to this event has given me a lot of insight,” said Watson. “We are doing research at the university that may be of interest to the Department of the Navy. I will encourage my faculty to apply for some of these research openings and my students to apply for the scholarships and internships. For my students, these opportunities could provide a great way for them to not only learn how to fund their education, but also create a pipeline from their academics to the workforce—that is critical and something I am really excited about.”
Creating that pipeline is also important to Navy’s HBCU/MI program, and the naval community as a whole. According to Smith, there will be a nearly 60 percent loss of scientists and engineers looming for the Navy by 2020.
Rear Adm. Mat Winter, chief of naval research and naval STEM executive, believes it is critical to fill those positions with talented, diverse and high-quality people.
“We value diversity and inclusion to encourage innovation,” Winter said. “As the center of the Navy’s science and technology innovation, a workforce made up with persons of differing cultures, ethnicities and experiences is critical to gaining the diversity of thought we need to stay ahead and deliver breakthrough technologies for our warfighters.”
It’s something Winter believes so strongly, that he has included it as part of his guiding principles for ONR.
HBCU/MI programs are specifically designed to increase partnerships with minority scientists and engineers engaged in research related to national defense, while substantially enhancing the capabilities and potential of HBCU/MIs to perform Navy-related research. This also includes internship opportunities for students and fellowships for faculty to work side-by-side with Navy scientists and engineers. Schools can also compete for grants and contracts for basic and applied research.
Future regional workshops will be held at HBCU and other minority serving institutions. The next event is tentatively scheduled in the spring of 2016 although the location has yet to be determined.