Partnering for Success

Historically black colleges and universities are increasing their competitiveness by teaming up with major corporations and government agencies

No. 1 producer of black engineering Ph.D.s,” he says. “But as a result of the program, enrollment in our industrial engineering curriculum has increased.”

FedLab resources have also contributed to the improvement of North Carolina A&T’s infrastructure. The campus library, the Edward B. Fort Interdisciplinary Research Center, underwent $20 million in renovations to house high-profile research projects, including those for the NASA Center for Aerospace Research and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

While many of these alliances have been successful, “there are still HBCU faculty and administration members who feel threatened by technology,” says Lorraine Smoot-Stone, Ph.D., national president of the United Minority Contractors Association (UMCA). “They feel it will only end up replacing–not helping–them.” Smoot-Stone partially blames this reluctance for the failure of last year’s $60 million Diversity Initiative with Apple Computers. The project, which was to be co-sponsored by the UMCA, would have supplied computers and wiring to approximately 32 HBCUs.

Partnerships in this arena are crucial in producing the next generation of black entrepreneurs and professionals. “Technology has the potential to be the great equalizer in education as well as economics,” says Ramon Harris, director of the Technology Transfer Project, a training program of the Executive Leadership Council Foundation in Washington, D.C. “But if HBCUs don’t change their way of thinking and accept the high-tech revolution, they’ll suffer and lose their relevance.”

Despite a few reservations, the tide is turning for HBCUs. As partnerships grow more and more innovative and results-oriented, it is hoped that apprehension will give way to a common-sense view of survival. Thanks to these collaborations, it no longer has to be a different world for historically black colleges and universities–just a more balanced one.

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