National Technical Association 93rd Annual Conference Underscores Critical Role HBCUs Play in STEM Diversity

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 1:04 PM AKDT

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite the countless contributions historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have made to American innovation and to building the Black middle class over the past 180+ years, people continue to challenge their value. Last week, the 93rd Annual National Technical Association (NTA) Conference and Student Symposium, themed "Broadening Participation in STEM: Valuing HBCUs," brought together faculty from HBCU campuses, representatives from government and industry, along with members of the community, to highlight the critical role HBCUs play in powering the next generation of STEM diversity.

According to NTA president, Dr. Richard S. Gragg, III, "HBCUs represent a vibrant and vital pipeline of students, particularly in the STEM fields. More importantly, HBCU graduates remain connected to communities that will be instrumental in solving the world's most pressing problems, such as climate change."

"Our deep and ongoing ties to HBCUs are a key factor in diversifying practitioners of science that will innovate solutions for technical problems today and into the future," adds Dr. Gragg, who is also a professor at Florida A & M University (FAMU). "We saw the impact of diversity when many vaccine-hesitant people lined up to be immunized after learning that an African American scientist, Kizzmekia Corbett, was instrumental in creating the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Clearly, diversity matters."

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NTA conducted a hybrid conference with a combination of online and in-person sessions. The four-day convening kicked-off with a moving live performance by the Lincoln University Choir, followed by inspiring welcomes from Lincoln University Trustee, Henry Lancaster, II, NTA conference co-chair and leader of the Lincoln University coordinating committee, Dr. Michael Ayewoh, and NTA conference co-chair, Felicia Davis.

Hosted by Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the conference featured presentations on wide-ranging STEM topics including: Valuing Women in STEM; Experience and Communicate the Science Around You; Energy, Education and Equity: Workforce for the Global Economy; Let the Community Talk, Experts Listen; and Professional Advancement, Diversity and Opportunity. Funding from the National Science Foundation enabled the Pan African Studies Department to organize a groundbreaking workshop exploring Pan-Africanist Pedagogy in the Teaching and Learning of Geoscience. The workshop was led by Dr. D. Zizwe Poe and Dr. Tedra Booker.

NTA past president and conference co-chair, Dr. Ambrose Jerald, engaged in a thought-provoking dialogue with Lincoln University president, Dr. Brenda Allen, as part of a newly launched NTA series featuring one-on-one conversations with HBCU presidents. The scholars discussed the crucial connection between STEM and the arts and humanities, underscoring the need to use a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to solve global problems like achieving climate and  social  justice.

Dr. Gragg spearheaded a unique partnership with DeMarcus Robinson, a FAMU graduate and founder of Beyond the STEAHM, to craft experiential sessions that expanded community engagement. A major goal, according to Robinson, is to incorporate "science, technology, engineering, arts, humanities and mathematics to dispel science and policy myths and misconceptions and foster greater community-based conversation and productive engagement."

The conference included the newly named Dr. George Robert Carruthers Student Research Symposium that was coordinated by Morgan State University under the leadership of Provost Dr. Hongtao Yu. Coordinated in collaboration with NTA and Lincoln University and supported by the National Science Foundation and the American Physical Society; the student symposium attracted 73 undergraduate and graduate student research project submissions competing in an array of STEM categories.

The NTA Virtual Awards and Closing Ceremony opened with a deeply touching video tribute to the late Dr. George Robert Carruthers, an African American inventor, engineer and space scientist who passed away in 2020. Awards included the Fred C. Dows Special Event Award given to the Hampton Roads Chapter for their Tennis Open and the Augustus D. Watson Outstanding Chapter Award presented to the Space Coast Florida Chapter. Dr. Uvetta Dozier received the Samuel R. Cheevers Distinguished Service Award; Dr. Hongtao Yu was bestowed the James C. Jones Humanitarian Award; Dr. Valerie Thomas received the A. T. Weathers Technical Achievement Award; and the NTA Student Achievement Award went to Morgan State University PhD student, Nickelene Mclean.

The National Technical Association was founded in 1925 by a group of prominent leaders to create a safe haven and provide a voice for minorities in architecture, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Over the past 95 years NTA has developed a remarkable legacy encouraging, inspiring, and mentoring women, minorities and youth to enter and excel in STEM fields. The oldest African American technical organization in the United States has garnered a diverse membership, crossing all disciplines from educators, scientists, doctors and astronauts, to award-winning inventors. The membership is also open to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students with a special appeal to HBCU students. For more information or to join NTA visit www.ntaonline.org.

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SOURCE National Technical Association

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