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HBCU Presidents’ Summit on STEM Opens in Montgomery

Image associated with the  HBCU Presidents’ Summit on STEM Opens in Montgomery news item

Author: Lois G. Russell

Release Date: Mar 14, 2016

The opening session of the inaugural HBCU Presidents' Summit on STEM, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and hosted by Alabama State University, was held Sunday, March 13.

STEM ConferenceLeaders of more than 30 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are in Montgomery, Ala., at the invitation of Alabama State University, for the inaugural HBCU Presidents’ Summit on STEM, an acronym used globally to represent Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics academic disciplines.

“Alabama State University is honored to host the first HBCU Presidents’ Summit on STEM,” said Dr. Gwendolyn E. Boyd, President of Alabama State University. “We have gathered presidents of HBCUs literally from across the country, as well as from the Virgin Islands…to come together to talk about ways that we can collaborate for greater potential projects with each other…and with majority institutions so that we can get more grant contracts to help create a better pipeline for STEM engagement throughout the country. It is imperative that we have this conversation right now to move the STEM dialogue forward and start some important collaborations for the future.”

The opening session of the three-day summit was held at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Montgomery.

Lt. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, Commander and President of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, was the keynote speaker. He emphasized the importance of the summit as a means of collaborating so that current and future generations understand the importance of STEM to the advancement and survival of humanity.STEM Summit

“Each of you, as the ones blessed with the opportunity to truly message the minds of the next generation, have an extraordinary opportunity,” said Kwast. “Your opportunity is to find a way of unlocking the true purpose behind STEM in your students. To help them see the full power and potential for good that they have at their fingertips, to start with the purpose for their existence, the reason why God gave them a mind that is capable of inventing new technologies and new tools for humanity to move to a different place. They have the potential of architecting technology which truly is a tool of national power. They can architect it in a way that uplifts the human condition and helps humanity.”

Dr. Shiva Singh, Chief of the Undergraduate Predoctoral Branch of the National Institutes of Health, said that he was proud to see that ASU has taken the lead in forming a national dialogue to empower HBCUs. Singh, who taught and led foundational research activities at ASU for 25 years, emphasized the need for diversity in the STEM agenda.

“In the global economy that we live today, it is important for the competitiveness of this country that we draw upon all society so that we have not only a strong biomedical work force, but also a diverse biomedical workforce,” said Singh. “Diversity brings innovation. Problems today are multidisciplinary. They are complex, and in order to solve those problems, research shows that you have to have a diverse…not just a strong…but a diverse team to answer those questions.”

The summit was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. ASU’s Center for NanoBiotechnology Research (CNBR) was instrumental in securing the grant.

The center’s director, Dr. Shree Singh, said the summit could potentially have a national impact for HBCUs.

STEM Summit“We are hoping that this summit will lay the foundation for many more such meetings in the future, so that all HBCUs can really benefit by networking and collaborating with each other,” said Dr. Shree Singh.

“HBCUs can come together as a group and have a national agenda about what should be the funding for HBCUs, what should be the collaborations, what will be the role of federal agencies as well as other HBCUs in creating a STEM agenda. Right now, there is lopsided funding in terms of awards to majority institutions and HBCUs; but this kind of forum can be instrumental in forming alliances that will convince federal agencies to provide more funding for HBCUs.”

The summit continues through Tuesday, March 15, with the remaining sessions being held in the John Garrick Hardy Student Center on the ASU campus. The event will feature relevant and notable national, regional and local speakers and presenters, as well as workshops and strategic discussions. The summit also will include technical assistance sessions presented by NSF facilitators and representatives from a number of topic-relevant governmental agencies.

The complete list of summit speakers and presenters is below. For more on the HBCU Presidents’ Summit on STEM, including the program agendas, speaker bios and participating institutions, visit

Notable Speakers and Presenters

Nationally acclaimed speakers include:

  • Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County;
  • Lt. General Steven L. Kwast, commander and president, The Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base;
  • Dr. Sylvia James, director, Division of Human Resource Development, National Science Foundation;
  • Dr. Claudia Rankins, program director, National Science Foundation;
  • Hon. LaDoris Harris, director, Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, U.S. Department of Energy;
  • Darryl A. Stokes, chairman, Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering (AMIE);
  • Annie Whatley, deputy director, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  • Dr. Shree Singh, director, ASU Center for Nanobiotechnology Research.

Renowned session presenters include:

  • Lezli Baskerville, president and CEO of National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education;
  • Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO, Thurgood Marshall Fund;
  • Dr. Ivory Toldson, executive director, White House Initiative on HBCUs;
  • Dr. Chad Womack, director, Merck Fellowship Program & STEM Education Initiatives, United Negro College Fund.

Other presenters represent nationally and internationally recognized government/business entities such as:

  • U.S. Department of Energy;
  • NASA;
  • Boeing;
  • Lockheed Martin;
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency;
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology;
  • National Institutes of Health;
  • Environmental Protection Agency.



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