A Week of Action: Celebrating STEM and Black History Month

This Friday, to wrap up an exciting week of action by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in celebration of Black History Month, to shine a light on the importance of engaging America’s full science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent pool, OSTP Director John P. Holdren will visit Morgan State University, a Baltimore-based Historically Black College or University (HBCU). In addition to touring on-campus research and laboratory facilities, Dr. Holdren will meet with university leadership, faculty, and students to discuss the challenge and opportunity of broadening participation in STEM fields – a priority area of focus for OSTP.

Here’s a recap of OSTP’s “Week of Action” activities to celebrate Black History Month and promote STEM inclusion:

To start off the week,  on Tuesday, OSTP’s Knatokie Ford and Marlon Marshall of the White House Office of Public Engagement co-hosted a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout featuring all-star African American STEM students, researchers, and scientists to share their stories, lessons learned, and help inspire African American students across America to pursue STEM studies and careers. 

On Wednesday, OSTP Director Holdren delivered closing remarks at a White House Champions of Change event convened by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, celebrating extraordinary leaders who are working to support and accelerate STEM opportunities for African American students, schools, and communities. Later in the day, Director Holdren kicked off a day-long workshop, convening leading technical experts, representatives from minority professional societies, nonprofit organizations, and other key stakeholders to develop concrete actions that help minorities excel in STEM studies and careers.

In his remarks to nearly 60 exemplary leaders working on the front lines of efforts to advance STEM-inclusion, Dr. Holdren noted that the underrepresentation of minorities in the nation’s STEM degree graduates and workforce is “a squandered opportunity” both for the Nation and “for those individuals who might otherwise have had the satisfaction of a STEM career—a kind of career that by all measures today pays more and has less of a gender gap in salary than non-STEM jobs.”

Dr. Holdren’s remarks were followed by a panel discussion featuring representatives from five White House’s Initiatives for Educational Excellence for African American and other minority groups, as well as presentations by Antonio Tijerino, President of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), United Negro College Fund (UNCF) National STEM Director Chad Womack, and CHANGES co-chair Hattie Carwell about their organizations’ ongoing efforts to shore up diversity in STEM studies and careers.

Two breakout sessions later in the day were venues for participants to collaborate and develop concrete sets of actions to implement within their own organizations to address key challenges in the STEM Inclusion domain.  As a result of these brainstorming sessions, a number of new partnerships and commitments were forged, including:

  • Nine organizations will partner to launch an “Algebra by 7th Grade” Initiativea focused, 5-year effort to increase the number of underrepresented 7th grade students who are academically prepared to take algebra. Partners in this commitment include the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), College Tribes, Great Minds in STEM (GMIS), National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM), National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and National Technical Association (NTA) For more information about this developing initiative, please email this address.
  • The HBCU Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Initiative will host an event at the end of March focused on ways to promote an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship among HBCUs. The HBCU ICE Initiative is a partnership led by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Association for Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the White House Initiative on HBCUs.  This event will follow up on the first HBCU Innovation Summit held in the fall of 2013 in Palo Alto, CA, which resulted from a “Tech Inclusion” event held at the White House last year.
  • The National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) will develop a physics-focused multidisciplinary initiative called “Physics Inspiring the Next Generation (PING)".  PING will include weekly meetings and a summer program to help address the shortage of minority students who are eager to major in physics and astronomy.  Focused on PreK-12 students, NSBP will collaborate with Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) and National Users Facilities to develop the PING program with the goal of increasing the number of African American physicists and astronomers in America over the next decade.
  • Hispanic Heritage Foundation in partnership with Google will teach middle and high school Latino students how to code in 15 markets across America with a soundtrack.  These coding events, called “Coding Jam Sessions”, follow-up the first HHF LOFT ESA Video Gaming Fellows competition, which resulted from a “Minorities in STEM” event held at the White House last year.  The Gaming Fellows challenged the group to ‘teach all students to code” and this partnership will bring app development to hundreds-to-thousands of youths across America.

We at OSTP applaud these commitments and look forward to continued collaboration with partners within and outside government to advance the ball on STEM inclusion.

Sean L. Jones is a Senior Policy Analyst at OSTP, Knatokie Ford is an AAAS Science and Technology Fellow at OSTP, and Sarah Tornetta is a Student Volunteer at OSTP

Your Federal Tax Receipt