NACME BLOG

NACME President and CEO Attends the 2014 State of the Union Address

 

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

It was indeed a privilege for me to attend President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 28. I would like to extend my sincere thank you to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for providing me a guest ticket to the event.

As the leader of this nation’s largest private provider of scholarship support to African American, American Indian, and Latino young women and men pursuing bachelor’s and advanced degrees in engineering, I was pleased to hear the President’s ideas on workforce development, pre-K education, high-speed broadband, redesign of high schools, and reaching out to young men of color. Each of these ideas for reform touch on important components of the NACME Strategy.

The President called for an “across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” At NACME, we believe that the solution to America’s competitiveness problem lies in bringing young underrepresented minorities into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers in dramatically increased numbers. The diversity of background, talent, and thought that they will bring to the sciences and engineering is our only hope of maintaining our country’s traditional lead in technological innovation.

President Obama pledged to “pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high quality pre-K that they need.” NACME recognizes the critical need to start as early as possible in introducing students to the excitement and reward of STEM education and careers. We have launched a series of initiatives beginning in middle school designed to introduce underrepresented minority students, parents, and school guidance counselors to STEM education and careers. It just makes good sense to start even earlier in pre-K. And the role of parents in all of this is key. As a father and grandfather, I know the power of finding ways to make STEM disciplines and careers relatable to children. Just about all children come into contact with something that is possible because of the work of an engineer or a STEM professional. Whether it is a video game, music, a computer, or a cell phone, helping children make the connections is key.

NACME also supports President Obama’s call to “connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years.” With broadband students and teachers can expand instruction to an anytime, anyplace, anyway paradigm, provide more customized learning opportunities for students, and make the flow of educational information more relevant for students, teachers, and parents.

President Obama stated that “we’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer real-world education and hands-on training that can lead to a job and career.” NACME is pioneering a unique public-private partnership that links middle schools, Academies of Engineering (AOEs) in grades 9-12, community colleges, universities, corporations, and other organizations on a regional basis in an effort to increase the number of African American, American Indian, and Latino young women and men prepared for engineering education. The NACME STEM Integration Model (NSIM) provides short-term and long-term outcomes for each partner in the model. The NSIM is currently being beta-tested in New York/New Jersey; Texas; Milwaukee, WI; and soon, California.

Finally, the President’s commitment to “help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential,” is a national imperative for both NACME and the nation. Sixty-eight (68) percent of NACME Scholars in 2012-2013 were male. Fifty-five (55) percent of 2012 students in the NACME/Sloan Minority Ph.D. Program in STEM (MPHD) were male. We are very proud of these metrics. Yet, the literature is replete with an analysis of the impediments that stand in the way of the academic progress of, especially, African American males. Negative environmental influences, poor elementary and secondary school experiences that do not prepare underrepresented minority males for college-level work, low expectations of teachers and counselors, culturally unresponsive campus environments, the debilitating consequences of severe underrepresentation in STEM courses of study, etc. result in the estimate that few African American male high school graduates are adequately prepared for engineering study. NACME’s scholarship and pre-engineering strategies—including the NSIM—are all designed to build awareness, motivation, and academic resilience for our students—male and female—as well as to provide the financial support required to complete an engineering degree. We must also make a major paradigm shift in the way we look at underrepresented minority male academic achievement by focusing on the experiences of successful underrepresented minority male students in STEM. We must better understand the attitudes that they bring to STEM study that account for their academic success. The National Science Foundation Study currently underway at NACME, Success Factors for Minorities in Engineering: A Study of NACME Block Grant Universities, under the direction of Dr. Jacqueline Fleming, will shed much needed light on the success of underrepresented minority males in completing bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Also noteworthy is the National Black Male College Achievement Study under the direction of Dr. Shaun R. Harper at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.

Read a transcript of the 2014 State of the Union Address 

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