HBCU Graduate School in Science & Eng

HBCU Graduate School in Science &
For thousands of the nation's African-American Ph.D. holders, a
funny thing happened on the way to being hooded; most of them
began their academic careers at historically black colleges and
It is a trend that, while having tapered a bit since the (alleged)
thrust of desegregation in higher education, has continued to be
a staggering statistic for the nation's professional ranks, a point
of pride for HBCUs and their graduates, and a complex glitch in
the plans for individuals and systems who would seek to
dismantle HBCUs and their culture.
And as the nation scrambles to match the industrial and
intellectual capacity of nations in the Middle and Far East for
economic and national security interests, the tenor of the
nation's conversation towards HBCUs, at least among many
predominantly white institutions, has changed from adversarial
to one of alliance.
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on
continuing efforts by the National Institutes of Health to
diversify its grant-awarding standards, a direct response to a
2011 study which found that NIH awarded applications
submitted by white scientists 10 percent more often than those
from black scientists with similar proposals, and 13 percent more
for white scientists overall.
Not surprisingly, the subject of black scientists conjured a
mention for historically black colleges and universities, and
revealed NIH data showing that the nation's top 10 producers of
undergraduates who go on to earn doctorates in science and
engineering are historically black colleges.
Black graduates who later earned an S&
doctorate in 2002-11
Howard U.
Spelman College
Florida A&M U.
Hampton U.
Xavier U. of Louisiana
Morehouse College
Morgan State U.
North Carolina A&T State
Southern U.
Tuskegee U.
U. of Maryland-Baltimore
U. of Maryland at College
U. of Michigan at Ann
U. of Virginia
Harvard U.
Jackson State U.
U. of California at Berkeley 64
U. of Illinois at Urbana62
U. of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill
Tennessee State U.
Yale U.
Brown U.
Massachusetts Institute of 55
U. of Florida
Cornell U.
Source: National Science Foundation
Nearly half of the nation's top 25 best institutions at producing
eventual black Ph.D. graduates are historically black. But a closer
look at the statistics shows another interesting statistic relevant
to the recent decision in the successful lawsuit on HBCU equity
in the state of Maryland.
Just beneath 10 black colleges are two PWIs (predominately
white universities), the University of Maryland-Baltimore
County, and the state's flagship University of Maryland-College
Park. Maryland's HBCUs, Bowie State University, Coppin State
University, Morgan State University and the University of
Maryland-Eastern Shore, are major feeders into the two
institutions' graduate programs.
And both are at the center of a federal judge's opinion that the
state knowingly maintained a system of separate and unequal
systems of higher education for black and white students, a
victory for the alumni and students of the state's HBCUs which
comprise the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher
In a recent edition of the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper,
Coalition President David Burton elaborated on the damage done
by the state at inequitably funding its black colleges, while
simultaneously duplicating HBCU programs at geographically
proximate PWIs in UMBC, Towson University and the University
of Baltimore.
Thirty-five years after the initial recommendation for
engineering at Morgan; some 20 years after Morgan proposed
that it be developed as a multiracial campus; and after a second
state study recommending engineering education be established
in Baltimore, the State finally authorized the development of
engineering at the Morgan campus. But rather than create a
comprehensive school of engineering at Morgan, the state
approved undergraduate programs only in electrical, civil and
industrial engineering. It also authorized the University of
Maryland College Park to offer its undergraduate programs in
chemical and mechanical engineering at the newly developed
UMBC campus.
With less than modest investment, engineering quickly emerged
as one of Morgan's signature programs by which the campus
became nationally recognized. Enrollments grew rapidly.
Consistent with state goals for diversity, the percentage of
African-American recipients of engineering degrees rose from
about three percent in the early 1980s to about 16 percent in the
mid-nineties, many of whom went on to major research
institutions for graduate studies. Almost as quickly, the State
created a stand-alone, competing school of engineering at UMBC
to eventually include duplicates of the computer engineering
phase of the Morgan electrical engineering program and
graduate programs in electrical, computer and civil engineering
among other areas. This well-funded competition within 12 miles
of the Morgan campus was devastating.
In an interview with the Chronicle, UMBC President and
Hampton University alumnus Freeman Hrabowski, seemed tepid
on the prospect of fully developing comprehensive academic
programs at black colleges. Instead, he says, more resources
should be given to larger PWIs which provide the most
opportunity to the most people, without regard for race.
UMBC's success is due to approaches that include getting
research faculty members involved early with undergraduates,
putting the undergraduates into labs, and ensuring students help
one another, Mr. Hrabowski said. Mentoring and coaching is
essential, and helping historically black institutions is valuable,
Mr. Hrabowski said.
But any broad new NIH effort, he said, should put primary
attention on "the majority of American higher education."
Hrabowski, who served in executive roles at Alabama A&M and
Coppin State prior to his appointment at UMBC, understands
fully the model of historically black educational tactics. The
intervention and nurturing strategies to which he was exposed as
an undergraduate at Hampton and deployed as an executive at
two black colleges are the backdrop to his Meyerhoff Scholars
Program; a program that UMBC touts as a national model for
access and opportunity for minorities in S.T.E.M. fields, but par
for the course at all of Maryland's black college campuses, and
used by most HBCUs and throughout the nation.
It should frighten most HBCU supporters that Hrabowski, a
beneficiary of the historically black environment which helped
propel him to a lucrative and famed career in higher education,
would prefer that PWIs receive resources to build a model that
already exists and thrives at HBCUs, in spite of disparate funding
and political opposition. Investing in the better-endowed
institutions at the expense of the least-funded but most
productive institutions is not a winning strategy for a nation with
an increasingly diverse population, and a goal of reclaiming the
title of world's smartest country.
Truly, it is more surprising than scary that a noted
mathematician can't, or is advised to not add up what many
other PWIs around the country have already figured out; don't
deplete already sparse HBCU resources, add to them and recruit
HBCU baccalaureate graduates to bolster the the number of
black doctoral graduates at their own campuses.
Vanderbilt University enjoys a number of S.T.E.M.-related
partnerships with Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and
Howard University. Their latest partnership will train Vanderbilt
Ph.D. holders for careers in teaching -- at historically black
colleges and universities. This partnership includes research and
academic exchange with Tennessee State University and
Tougaloo College; deepening the VU imprint on several of the
nation's prominent HBCU campuses.
It is easy to imagine a future where doctoral-granting institutions
like Tennessee State, Howard, Florida A&M, North Carolina
A&T, Hampton, Jackson State, Morgan State and Tuskegee could
follow in the footsteps of Vanderbilt, and one day welcome white
baccalaureate graduates from PWIs onto their historically black
campuses to add to the nation's pursuit of more Ph.D. holders.
Colleges like Penn State, UCLA and others have also realized that
the fight for resources is not one waged in eliminating HBCUs,
but in mining their talent for graduate and post-graduate
credentialing. As costs climb and access diminishes, these PWIs
realize the value of tapping into campuses with meager resources
but globally heralded developmental expertise. Against
extraordinary odds, HBCUs produce undergraduates whom most
PWIs would never admit out of high school, but are glad to
receive as polished students ready for achievement in graduate
school and the professional ranks.
To be sure, these schools would not oppose any measures that
would enhance the preparedness and expertise of their future
doctoral students. In Maryland, that would mean following the
judge's opinion and shifting duplicative programs and resources
away from proximate PWIs and into the four HBCUs. Nationally,
the goal would be realized with increased funding from federal
agencies like NIH to the institutions with the greatest potential,
but the least amount of resources to refine it -- HBCUs.
Any investment in an integrated model is the right kind of
spending for the nation's future success. By any measure of
social, economic and cultural equity in the context of higher
education, HBCUs have always met the challenge of providing
access and opportunity to the high-achiever and the academically
marginal alike.
But the math doesn't add up for PWIs, which in the last 60 years
have just come around on enrollment desegregation, over the last
20 years have just begun to prove proficient at actually
graduating minority students in large numbers, and over the last
10 have priced poor and middle class students of all races out of
any chance at college education. Save for the grand old problem
of race in America, no investment strategy for the nation's
objectives of innovation and productivity should or would look at
PWIs as the ideal hubs for education designed to complete the
goal of making more college graduates.
The reality of HBCU value may be lost on most politicians and
private citizens who don't understand numbers and culture in
higher education, but those in the know understand that in any
context, there is no such thing as academic or professional
diversity without historically black colleges and universities. And
when the nation looks out upon the world's rushing wave of
innovation in commerce, military defense and intellectual
capital, they understand that race can no longer be a metric of
capacity, but rather, an indicator of the nation's greatest
untapped natural resource.
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