Response to President Obama’s “America’s College Promise Proposal”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The recent announcement by President Obama that he would propose a plan to make the first two years of community college free comes as a major boost to energizing the community college pathway to engineering for all Americans, most especially underrepresented minorities (URMs). According to The White House Fact Sheet, the America’s College Promise Proposal aims to create a new partnership with states to help them waive tuition in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least two years of college.

NACME has been at the forefront of research, partnership, support, and policy on the community college pathway to engineering careers for URMs. My own background in academic leadership includes nearly 12 years as a dean, campus president, and chancellor at progressively more complex community college systems. Transfer programs in engineering science, and career programs in engineering technologies were hallmarks of the academic programs offered at each of these three community college systems: Wayne County Community College, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, and The Community College of Baltimore County.

Specifically, NACME’s Community College Strategy has encompassed scholarship support for high school juniors and seniors to take calculus, physics, and introduction to engineering courses at their local community colleges in circumstances where those courses were not offered by the K-12 public school district; targeted transfer scholarships for engineering science students at community colleges who complete their associate’s degree and successfully transfer to bachelor’s degree programs at any one of NACME’s 51 Partner Institutions across the nation; a major study of NACME Scholars who began their post-secondary education in the community college that demonstrated higher GPAs and retention rates for community college transfer students; and a Lumina Foundation-funded grant to explore contextualized instructional models that utilize Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in intermediate algebra and pre-calculus courses, and that integrate engineering awareness, concepts, and skills. Our current efforts are focused on incentivizing best practices in engineering transfer and articulation between community colleges and NACME Partner Institutions in our regionally-based NACME STEM Integration Model sites.

Why is the community college such a vital partner in the national effort to increase the representation of African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in engineering education and careers?

Nearly half of U.S. undergraduates enroll in community colleges. Community college students constitute 40 percent of first-time freshmen and 52 percent of American Indian, 45 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander, 43 percent of African American, and 52 percent of Latino undergraduates. For many of these students, a community college education is the gateway to a four-year college degree.

Although the collegiate function (transfer and liberal arts) of the community college has been well-documented, recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed the impact of the community college in providing an educational foundation for students who transfer successfully and earn a four-year degree1. The study showed that nearly 75 percent of the students who earned an associate degree and then moved to a four-year college graduated with a bachelor’s degree within four years of transferring. The report demonstrated the importance of tracking outcomes of community college graduates over a longer period.

Less well acknowledged is the role of the community college in the education of engineers in the U.S. Adelman revealed that 20 percent of engineering degree recipients began their academic careers at community colleges, earning a minimum of 10 credits from these institutions2. Data from the 2008 National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG) documented that 44.4 percent of recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees and 25 percent with master’s degrees in engineering attended community college3.

Analysis of the 2006 NSRCG data by Tsapogas showed that 64 percent of American Indian/Alaska Natives only, 5 percent of Black only, and 55 percent of Hispanic science and engineering bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients in 2004 and 2005, attended community college4.

I believe that this is a propitious moment to connect four strands that relate directly to the concerns about U.S. competitiveness in the flat world: 1) the fact that diversity drives innovation and that its absence imperils our designs, our products, and, most of all, our creativity—all components of competitiveness; 2) African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men remain one of the most underrepresented minority groups in engineering-related fields; 3) African American, American Indian, and Latino students are well-represented in the community college sector, although not in the STEM disciplines; and 4) community colleges are already essential to the education of engineers in the U.S.5

We agree that President Obama’s plan is a potential game-changer. Clearly, there is still much to know about this ambitious proposal before free community college tuition could become policy. NACME looks forward to working with all interested stakeholders to maximize the opportunity to produce more URM community college transfer students who successfully complete the bachelor’s degree and beyond in engineering.


1. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The Role of Two-Year Colleges in Four-Year Success.” Last modified Spring, 2012.

2. Adelman, C. Women and men of the engineering path: A model for analysis of undergraduate careers. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1998.

3. National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Characteristics of recent science and engineering graduates: 2008. Last modified July 15, 2013.

4. Tsapogas, J. The role of community colleges in the education of recent science and engineering graduates. Handout presented at STEM Conference, Montgomery College, MD: October 2007.

5. McPhail, Irving P., “Confronting the 'New' American Dilemma: A National Imperative for the Community College.” Community College Week, March 2013, 4. 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Greetings and Happy New Year!

As we kick off 2015, I am delighted to welcome our phenomenal scholars back to their campuses.

The start of a new year is the perfect time to take a moment to visualize where you want to be, what you want to accomplish, and how you want to better yourself in the next 12 months. The start of a new year offers hope and endless possibilities. As always, I encourage all scholars to take advantage of every opportunity to shine and keep their eyes fixed on their goal of becoming the next generation of engineers.

As parents, families, and friends of NACME Scholars, or budding engineers in middle and high schools, I encourage you to help these students visualize a world in which these outstanding young people are taking the lead and creating the latest hot gadget, or are working to resolve some of the world’s most demanding issues. Over the last year, NACME has profiled scholars and alumni on our website and in our newsletter. While reading these profiles, one thing always stands out, each one of these outstanding individuals had someone who either guided or supported their path to an engineering career. Regardless of the source—family member, teacher, or friend—these individuals helped plant the seed of possibility and encouraged them to pursue their dream of becoming an engineer. I can only ask for everyone to do their part in spreading the word about STEM careers in 2015.

On the topic of the New Year, as an ambassador for the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative (MIE), I am delighted to announce that  NACME will be participating in  MIE’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, 2015. Over the coming days, leading up to the January 19th event, NACME will be providing suggestions via social media on ways everyone can help spread the word about careers in energy and ways to engage the imaginations of students and get them excited about the endless possibilities that await our youth.

NACME will also take this effort a step further by dedicating space in our monthly newsletter to the energy sector. In this section, we will feature profiles on NACME Alumni working in the energy fields, share information regarding training, and skills development, as well as provide tips on energy efficiency, and share videos on energy literacy.



A Look Back at 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The end of yet another year is quickly approaching, and that has inspired me to reflect on some of the outstanding accomplishments of 2014 in the life and times of NACME.

This year, NACME published the long awaited Engineer Something Amazing! suite of pre-engineering materials aimed at middle and high school students, teachers, parents and guidance counselors. The purpose of these materials is to generate awareness and excitement about the possibilities of an engineering career. These materials were created with generous support from the Northrop Grumman Foundation and the AT&T Foundation; and with the help of AT&T employees, as well as teachers and a cross section of students from the White Plains, N.Y., area. In addition to having these materials available as printed documents, we decided to make them a lot more accessible through our website, as downloadable documents. Since their completion, more than 400 people have downloaded these items and several thousand whole sets of these materials have been delivered to middle and high schools across the United States.

In the spring, NACME also published one of its most ambitious pieces to date, the 2013 NACME Symposium Research and Policy Journal. For this document, NACME transcribed statements and testimonies delivered by our special guests from our 2013 NACME National Symposium and asked for attendees to submit white papers on the challenges facing underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM education and careers. This report challenges existing paradigms and reframes the research-policy nexus for change and action in catalyzing the engineering pathway for our students.

In July, NACME moved into its new headquarters. Our new offices are still in the heart of White Plains, N.Y., the wonderful city that NACME has called home for well over a decade.

NACME as we know it began with the urging of minority leaders, business executives, the academic community, and leading corporations decided to pool their resources to achieve parity in the representation of minorities in engineering. By 1974, four loosely coupled organizations had been created to build the knowledge base and expertise to lead a long-term national effort:

  • NACME, the National Advisory Council for Minorities in Engineering, comprised of top-level industry executives who agreed to provide leadership and funding for the new initiative;
  • CME, the Committee on Minorities in Engineering of the National Academy of Engineering, to conduct research on the issues impacting minority participation;
  • ME3, the Minority Engineering Education Effort, to identify and recruit potential engineering students; and
  • NFMES, the National Fund for Minority Engineering Students, to provide much-needed financial aid.

In 1980, the loose coupling became a formal merger of NFMES and ME3 with legal incorporation under NACME. To signify the new organization’s expanded role, Advisory was changed to Action in its acronym. The original Advisory Council became NACME’s board and the new corporation assumed many functions of the CME. The mandate of NACME now the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. was to conduct ongoing research, to identify the impediments limiting access to careers in engineering and to implement programs to achieve the technical workforce truly reflective of the American population.

In 1974, roughly 2 percent of the U.S. engineering workforce was composed of African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos. Today that metric stands at 10 percent. Clearly, progress has been made. However, that progress has been marginal at best; neither steady enough nor substantial enough for the representation of minorities to approach parity with their presence in the U.S. population.

NACME is, today, the largest private provider of scholarships for underrepresented minority students in engineering. We are extremely proud to have helped more than 24,000 young women and men with more than $142 million in scholarships and support during our first 40 years.

We met our fundraising goal of $1.2 million for scholarships at the 40th NACME Anniversary Awards Dinner & Celebration on October 15. I was completely overwhelmed by the announcement at the Awards Dinner that Hewlett-Packard Company was providing a seed grant of $50,000 to fund an investigative study to understand the competitive landscape and effectively meet the computing demands for underrepresented minorities in computer science careers. I am now equally delighted to announce that Bechtel Corporation has met the HP challenge with a $10,000 contribution.

The year 2014 also marked the end of the Connectivity 2015 strategic plan. The NACME Board of Directors is currently considering the next iteration of NACME’s vision, mission, and strategy—Connectivity 2020. With the support of our partners in this journey, NACME intends to raise the bar on execution-with-excellence with respect to our Core Key Results Areas (Scholarships and University Relations; Pre-Engineering Programs, including the Community College Pathway; and Research and Program Evaluation), Sustaining Key Results Area (Revenue Generation), and Supporting Key Results Areas (Strategic Communications, Organizational Sustainability, and Engineering Public Policy).

This has been a phenomenal year for NACME and I am eagerly waiting to see what 2015 will bring. I now wish you all Happy Holidays and a blessed New Year!

The NACME 40th Anniversary Awards Dinner and Celebration

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


We are now several weeks past NACME’s 40th Anniversary Awards Dinner and Celebration, and I am still delighted by the support we received and thrilled by the phenomenal surprise that was announced during the awards portion of the evening.

As always, NACME takes time during its anniversary celebrations to honor those outstanding individuals and corporations that have been instrumental in helping NACME continue to pursue its mission and vision. The honorees this year were: Dr. John Brooks Slaughter, former President and CEO of NACME and Professor of Education and Engineering at the University of Southern California, who received the Reginald H. Jones Distinguished Service Award; Sandra Begay-Campbell, Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories, who received the Alumni Circle Award; the Hewlett-Packard Company, which received the Corporate Citizenship Award; and Dr. Diana Natalicio, President of the University of Texas at El Paso, who received the Diversity Vision Award. Dr. Natalicio also served on the NACME Board of Directors from 1993 to 2012; and as chairman of the NACME Governance Committee from 2008 to 2012.

Through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and educational institutions, NACME raised more than $1 million leading into the anniversary celebration. These funds will be used to support NACME’s scholarships and programs. The real surprise during event, however, was announced at the end of HP’s acceptance speech, when Sue Barsamian, Senior Vice President at HP, and Vice Chairman of NACME Board of Directors; and John Hinshaw, Executive Vice President at HP, surprised the room of over 500 attendees by announcing that NACME would be receiving an additional gift of $50,000 that will be used to help attract more underrepresented minority students to computer science. HP then challenged NACME’s other supporters in attendance to match this generous gift. I was equally delighted when fellow NACME Board Company, PenFed, answered the call with a $10,000 matching gift.

NACME’s milestone celebration also served as a very special venue for me to announce the first recipient of The Pressley and Mauise Vinson McPhail/NACME Scholarship in Biomedical Engineering. Earlier this year, my wife, daughter, and I established scholarship as a tribute to my parents who were taken from us by cancer and cardiovascular disease. The first recipient, Khadidiatou (Khady) Guiro, attended our celebration and was presented with the scholarship check for $5,000. Ms. Guiro is a biomedical engineering doctoral candidate at Rutgers University School of Medicine and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, as well as an Alfred P. Sloan Minority Ph.D. Fellow. Ms. Guiro’s broad research goal is to develop successful therapeutic strategies for a range of diseases by closing the gap between engineering and molecular biology. She is currently studying breast cancer dormancy, a primary factor in disease recurrence, by using tissue engineering to closely observe the mechanisms of cell dormancy following cancer treatments. I am hopeful that Ms. Guiro’s contributions to cancer research will completely alter the way this horrible disease is treated.

I always come away from our anniversary celebrations feeling inspired, but this year as I walked away feeling elated. I am thankful for all those who contributed and for those who attended the 40th anniversary celebration, particularly the NACME Scholars and Alumni; we are all immensely proud of you and your accomplishments. All of NACME’s staff and supporters know that you will carry us well beyond the next 40 years


The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 44th Annual Legislative Conference

Monday, September 29, 2014



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.


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: and taking one of the green NACME folders on the rear table.

Thank you.



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