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HBCU Innovation: Outsized Contributions for Black Progress in Engineering Research and Education

This report is a roadmap in understanding and addressing the circumstances that must be confronted for the U.S. to produce more diverse, competitive STEM pipeline of talent.

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This report launches a dialogue to advance national policies and public-private partnerships to build on the collective research and talent strengths of the 15 ABET-accredited HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Schools of Engineering. In advancing this dialogue, this report has tapped the involvement of major corporations to examine the ability of the 15 HBCUs to meet industry innovation needs and to explore opportunities for enhancing the capacities of the HBCUs in research, talent development, and Pre-K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) pipeline activities. 

This report documents the significant outsized contributions and strong value proposition of the HBCUs for serving the needs of Black students in STEM fields and meeting the evolving, increasing talent challenges and emerging technologies needs for our nation. The analysis in this report validates the relevancy of the 15 ABET-accredited HBCU Schools of Engineering to address our nation’s STEM challenges and contribute to advancing leading areas of disruptive technologies of importance to industry. 

Despite the high value that HBCUs bring to our nation, each of the 15 HBCUs must overcome a legacy of underinvestment that requires immediate attention for them to reach their full potential in research, talent development, and pre-K-12 STEM pathway activities. That potential includes building on HBCUs’ current successes in teaching 21st-century subject matter and leading and collaborating in research with the Department of Defense (DOD)/federal government agencies, the business community, and larger universities to increase the magnitude and volume of each. 

This report also suggests that a disproportionate share of Black households with children living under conditions of striking levels of poverty, income inequities, and low-performing K-12 schools are within the HBCU Territorial Network (i.e., nine states plus the District of Columbia) where the HBCUs are located. This defines a strategic imperative for the nation to enhance pre-K-12 STEM talent pathway-building activities within this specific geography. We must emphasize that our nation faces a companion challenge on the global economic stage: a talent need that numerically can only be met by a team that reflects the diverse faces of America. Only through the necessary focus on developing the depth and breadth of its pre-K-12 STEM pipeline can the nation ensure its global competitiveness. 

Our HBCU Territorial Network offers incredible assets for assisting the nation in this STEM pipeline imperative, plus valuable strengths for expanding America’s research and development capacity. This network of research and talent strengths represents a formidable opportunity for collaboration with federal agencies, corporations, and other universities. This possibility points to the need for meaningful collective approaches at the national state and local levels. It means redefining the concept of inclusion as seen through the lens of America, recognizing that the nation needs the talent produced by the HBCU Territorial Network to win.

The focus here is not on affirmative action. Instead, investing in these schools is an act of strategic patriotism on behalf of the future of the United States. 

MITRE provided funding support to TEConomy to undertake this report.