NACME BLOG

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 44th Annual Legislative Conference

Monday, September 29, 2014

 

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Two years ago, I was pleased to serve on a panel at the 2012 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.  The Congressional Black Caucus’ conference is the premier gathering of African Americans, cultivating engaging policy discussions on issues that impact black communities around the world. This four-day conference features more than 70 policy sessions, a national town hall, a job and contract procurement fair, and other events. NACME became involved in an effort to draw more attention on Capitol Hill to the need to increase the number of African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians in STEM.


On Thursday, September 25, it was my honor to serve on a panel at the 2014 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference, hosted by Congressman Marc Veasey from Texas District 33 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The title of the panel was: Bridging the Gap: Collaboration & Engagement for Career Success. The panel focused on what companies and organizations are doing to prepare students for college and careers, while simultaneously closing the skills gap in communities across the nation. 


The panel featured Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Keynote Speaker; Sharon Epperson, CNBC Correspondent & Today Show Contributor, Moderator; Sean McGarvey, President, Building Trades, AFL-CIO; Greg Delagi, Senior Vice President, Texas Instruments; Frank Stewart, Board Member & Past President, American Association of Blacks in Energy; Chauncey Lennon, Executive Director, New Skills at Work Initiative, JP Morgan Chasse; Christine Scullion, Director, National Association of Manufacturers; Becky Pringle, Vice President, National Education Association; and myself.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Lee of PLWatcher. (Pictured L-R) Sharon Epperson, CNBC; Dr. McPhail; Christine Scullion, National Association of Manufacturers; Becky Pringle, National Education Association; Chauncy Lennon,JPMorgan Chase; Rep. Marc Veasey.

 

Below is my speech from Thursday, September 25, 2014:

 

Good Afternoon.


May I begin by thanking The Honorable Marc Veasey and his staff for the opportunity to serve as a panelist for this policy session.


Since its inception in 1974, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME) has remained true to its mission: To ensure American resilience in a flat world by leading and supporting the national effort to expand U.S. capability through increasing the number of successful African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in STEM education and careers.


The NACME Strategy embraces the continuum from Middle School to Workforce Entry. The strategy is supported by four Key Results Areas (KRAs): Scholarships and University Relations, Pre-Engineering Programs, Research and Program Evaluation, and Engineering Public Policy. Our Pre-Engineering KRA encompasses activities at the Middle School, High School, and Community College. These activities are specifically focused on building engineering awareness and the academic skillsets required for success in engineering study.


My time this afternoon does not permit a full review of the NACME Strategy. I would like to quickly provide an overview of NACME’s newest initiative in Pre-Engineering Programs—the regionally-based  NACME STEM Integration Model or NSIM. We successfully launched a second NSIM in the Texas region in 2013, with generous support from the ExxonMobil Foundation. The natural cluster of NACME Partner Universities, NACME Board Companies, and Academies of Engineering (AOEs)—the National Academy Foundation network of career-themed academies—made Texas the ideal location to follow the 2012 launch in the New York and New Jersey pilot regions. NACME has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with 12 AOEs in Dallas, Waco, Houston, San Antonio, and Orange; and five partner universities in the State. Each partner plays a unique role in facilitating the movement of AOE graduating seniors to engineering school.


The NACME Partner Universities offer summer programs for the AOE high school students that raise their awareness of engineering as an attainable career choice, as well as introduce them to the rigors of an undergraduate engineering education. Our university partners also stage college fairs, and consider extending NACME’s one-time $2,500 scholarship award beyond the student’s first year of engineering study, provided the eligibility requirements are met. NACME Board Companies commit top executive talent for service on AOE External Advisory Boards. The Hewlett-Packard Company has become the model corporation in this area with nearly 30 executives sharing their time and resources with participating high schools. AT&T, another venerable NACME Board Company, has implemented shadowing experiences and mentoring programs at the John E. Dwyer Technology Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey.


Scholarship support for AOE graduates moving on to engineering school, and professional development funds for STEM teachers at the AOEs have been critical components of the NSIM strategy. The AT&T Foundation supports STEM Innovation Grants for teachers and scholarships for graduating seniors at 10 AOEs in Texas, Wisconsin, California, Florida, New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Now in its second year of implementation in the New York and New Jersey regional NSIMs, the New York Community Trust awards scholarships to New York City-based AOE graduates, and to community college transfer students in engineering and continuing NACME Scholars enrolled at New York City-based NACME Partner Universities (New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering and The City College of New York). And on the West Coast, the Chevron Corporation has adopted a district-wide approach to supporting the implementation of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum at six high schools in northern California. Chevron provides scholarships, STEM Innovation Grants for teachers, and the distribution of NACME’s portfolio of Engineering Awareness Materials. The Northrop Grumman Foundation provided funding for this portfolio, including Engineer Something Amazing posters and brochures for Grades 6-12; the NACME Guaranteed A+ Plus Quick Start Guide; and the Engineering Your Future Magazine and The NACME Guide to Engineering Colleges for Grades 11-12.


Finally, the regional NACME STEM Integration Model represents the power of partnership in addressing the awareness gap and skills gap in engineering education for underrepresented minority students. The NSIM engages K-12 education; higher education, including the community college; and business and industry.


I invite you to learn more about the NACME Strategy by visiting our website at: www.nacme.org and taking one of the green NACME folders on the rear table.


Thank you.

 

Welcome Back NACME Scholars

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

 

 

Fall was always my favorite time of year as a professor and college president. Welcoming new and continuing students to the campus community reminded all of the value of college and the promise that our students held for changing the world. It is with this spirit that I am proud to welcome our NACME Scholars back to the 51 university campuses that produce almost a third of the nation’s talented underrepresented minority engineering graduates each academic year.

NACME provides scholarship support to nearly 1,200 young women and men each year. Our NACME Scholars continue to demonstrate outstanding academic success in engineering study, including a six-year graduation rate of 79 percent, and a 3.3/4.0 GPA. Our NACME Alumni are making major contributions to innovation, invention and entrepreneurship in science and technology. They are also good citizens, actively engaged in building awareness about engineering careers with the next generation of NACME Scholars.

This month’s NACME Alumni Spotlight features a profile on Ahmad Ibn Qaadir Shaheed, who not only became a successful mechanical engineer in the energy industry, but also helps inspire young minds to follow their dreams of a STEM career by serving as a board member of CSTEM, a non-profit organization providing services to teachers and students in the areas of communication, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (C-STEM).

Engineers like Ahmad and our other NACME Alumni who have received scholarship support define why we exist as an organization. For four decades, we have led the national effort to increase the representation of talented African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in STEM education and careers. We take great pride in showcasing their stories on our website, our newsletter, our publications, and in my public appearances and presentations.

None of this, however, would be possible without the support and dedication of NACME’s corporate and foundation supporters and individual donors. We are currently gearing up for our premiere scholarship fundraising event, the 40thNACME Anniversary Awards Dinner and Celebration, which will be held at the Waldorf Astoria, in New York City, on October 15, 2014. More than 500 corporate leaders, educators, NACME Scholars and Alumni will join us as we celebrate individuals and organizations that are truly making a difference. Additional information, including how you can help, can be found at www.nacme.org/dinner I hope to see you there.

 

A Victory for Affirmative Admissions-Fisher v. UT at Austin

Monday, August 4, 2014

 

I emphasize in all of my writing and speeches that the solution to America’s competitiveness problem is to activate the hidden workforce of young men and women who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM careers—African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos. Access to quality K-12 STEM education is key to preparing underrepresented minority young people for undergraduate education and beyond in STEM. Equally important is the aggressive recruitment, enrollment, education, retention, and graduation of increasing numbers of African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men by our nation’s engineering schools. NACME’s comprehensive portfolio of strategies across the continuum from middle school to workforce entry is designed to support this national imperative. This is why NACME has taken a stand against the anti-affirmative action movement in college admissions. We view this movement as yet another barrier being erected that will make it even more difficult to tap this source of talent.

On Tuesday, July 15, supporters of affirmative admissions policy in higher education were pleased when a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s consideration of race as one of the many factors in its admissions policy. Two key perspectives on the ongoing legal challenges to affirmative admissions policy in higher education help to level-set this issue.

First, from the legal opinion of Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham:

“We are persuaded that to deny U.T. Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience in contradiction of the plain teachings of Bakke and Grutter.”

Second, from the reaction to the ruling by William C. Powers Jr., the president of the University of Texas at Austin:

“This ruling ensures that our campus, our state and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events and in all aspects of campus life.”

The Supreme Court held in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) that student body diversity is a compelling governmental interest that can justify the use of race-conscious admissions in higher education. The University of Michigan Law School was permitted to use race as a factor in seeking a diverse student body, because the school deemed diversity essential to its educational objectives. In the present case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the plaintiff sought to undermine the Court’s significant and now well-established precedents, including its landmark 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger.

The admissions policy at issue in Fisher has two components: Most University of Texas at Austin students are admitted under a state law (the “Top 10 Percent Plan”), which requires the institution to admit all students who rank in the top 10 percent of their high school class. For the remainder of the class, the university undertakes a holistic “whole-file” review of applications. This process allows the school to consider additional criteria, such as essays, leadership qualities, extracurricular activities, awards, work experience, community service, family responsibilities, socio-economic status, languages spoken in the home, and—as of 2005—race. After the University of Texas at Austin added the consideration of race into its individualized admissions policy, African American enrollment grew by more than 21 percent. It is this modest consideration of race alongside a host of other factors that was at issue in the Supreme Court.

Leading corporations filed amicus briefs laying out the business case for diversity in Grutter. These arguments proved influential with the Court. Today, the business case for diversity is even more settled than it was at the time of Grutter. In the Fisher case, it was critical to convey to the Supreme Court that corporate America is opposed to any dilution of the diversity efforts that were found lawful in Grutter.

My July 31, 2012 communication to the NACME Board of Directors on this matter cited 25 corporations as having agreed to sign on to an amicus brief supporting the actions of the University of Texas at Austin by the filing deadline of August 13, 2013. I counted eight NACME Board Companies among this initial group of 25. This corporate amicus brief was part of a broad coalition supporting the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy, including numerous other colleges and universities, religious organizations, social science scholars, and leading civil rights organizations.

Alas, in 2013 the Supreme Court decided in a 7-to-1 ruling to vacate the decision by the appeals court and to force colleges to prove that they had tried every conceivable race-neutral admissions policy before introducing a limited consideration of race. The justices remanded the case and to the Fifth Circuit, requiring the lower court to re-examine the holistic, “whole-file” review policy in operation at the time at the University of Texas at Austin.

NACME’s voice has been heard in the various anti-affirmative action cases to come before the Supreme Court. An American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/NACME conference, organized in response to the Court’s decision in Grutter, resulted in a joint AAAS/NACME publication, Standing Our Ground, a guide for educators seeking diverse student bodies, while complying with the requirements of the Grutter decision. On January 15, 2008, 35 invited experts, comprising the academic, nonprofit, and business communities, gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss the ongoing legal threats to diversity in higher education Science and Technology (S&T) programs at a roundtable organized by AAAS and NACME, and with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Dr. John Brooks Slaughter, former president and CEO of NACME, wrote several op-ed articles and policy papers on the issue, and NACME joined the amicus briefs in the Grutter v. Bollinger and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

As expected, the lawyers for Abigail N. Fisher have asked the full U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to overturn the July 15, 2014 decision by a panel three of its judges in favor of the University of Texas at Austin. It is almost certain that the matter will once again be litigated before the Supreme Court.

 

 

STEM Leadership Forum 2014

 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

We recently completed a very successful NACME Board of Directors Meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The meeting was sponsored by Johnson Controls, Inc. An exciting feature of the board meeting was the STEM Leadership Forum. Key stakeholders from the Milwaukee Public Schools, including students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators; area universities; the business community; nonprofits; and philanthropy convened on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 to explore the implications of the “New” American Dilemma. NACME defines the “New” American Dilemma as the underrepresentation of African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos in STEM education and careers and the requirement to reverse this situation if America is to compete successfully in STEM on the global stage.

Milwaukee is an exciting setting for innovations in STEM education. With the nation’s largest concentration of K-12 public schools engaged in the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, a local community college with strong STEM programs, several excellent engineering schools, and the presence of global engineering and technology companies like Johnson Controls, Inc., it is not surprising that the conversations at the STEM Leadership Forum were robust. We were really impressed with the large number of public school students in the audience and the quality of their questions and the energy they displayed for STEM education. The next generation of African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men engineers will come out of Milwaukee.

As a courtesy, our host company, Johnson Controls, has provided video footage of the entire STEM Leadership Forum. The Forum can be viewed by clicking on to our YouTube channel.

Have a great summer!

Equal Educational Opportunity, 60 Years After Brown V. Board of Education

 

Monday, June 2, 2014

On May 17, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision turned 60. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in our nation’s public schools was unconstitutional. Six decades later, the struggle for equal educational opportunity is still not over.

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A recent AP article cited conclusions from The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. An analysis of U.S. Education Department data found that “segregation has been increasing since 1990, and that black students nationally are substantially more segregated than they were in 1970.” The data also revealed that Latino students “…are more likely to attend school with other Latinos than black students are with other blacks.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ powerful article in the April 2014 issue of The Atlantic offers a disquieting view of the failure of segregated schools: “As a school’s Black population increases, the odds that any given teacher there will have significant experience, full licensure, or a master’s degree all decline. Teacher turnover at segregated schools is typically high. And Black students, overall, are less likely than any other group of students to attend schools with Advanced Placement courses and high-level classes like calculus.” This situation leads directly to the relatively low representation of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the STEM fields. NACME’s analysis of NCES data confirms that URM students are not completing Calculus, Pre-Calculus, or other advanced mathematics courses in high school in sufficient numbers. While the majority of all high school students do not take Calculus, a solid percentage of White and especially, Asian/Pacific Islander students do complete these courses.

NACME’s comprehensive strategy of Scholarships and University Relations, Pre-Engineering Programs, Research and Program Evaluation, and Engineering Public Policy is needed now more than ever to combat this situation. Although our studies show that increases in URM participation in STEM have been achieved since our founding in 1974, the studies also reveal that progress has been marginal, neither steady enough nor substantial enough for the representation of minorities to approach parity with their presence in the U.S. population.

Against this background is the more positive and encouraging story of our NACME Scholars. Our NACME Scholars maintain an 84 percent retention rate over a five-year period. They have an average Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale. They complete internship experiences with world-class NACME Board Companies like Raytheon, Chevron, DuPont, and Dow to name a few, and accept full-time employment as engineers with many of these companies upon graduation.

To the Class of 2014, we offer our profound congratulations for your academic accomplishments and your passion for changing the world. We hope that you will find the time to mentor URM students in grades K-12, helping to ignite and sustain in them the excitement for the STEM disciplines that has propelled your success. Our children and youth desperately need role models and mentors. We also invite you to stay connected to NACME through Twitter and Facebook and through active participation in the evolving national NACME Alumni network through LinkedIn.

I leave you with the wisdom of our beloved Dr. Maya Angelou: “The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”

Change the world!

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