By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – North Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) are particularly active right now in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

According to a recent story in The Root (a website devoted to the African American community) predominately minority colleges like North Carolina A&T State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Central University, and others in North Carolina and nationally have received increasing amounts of research dollars recently in STEM-related fields.

“(STEM) is the language of the present day and of the future, and technical proficiency is required for most of the jobs and other opportunities that are now emerging,” said John Silvanus Wilson, an official with the U.S. Department of Education and the Obama administration’s point person on HCBUs, told The Root. “The folks in China certainly know that, as do the folks in India and elsewhere in the world. America knows it, and needs to know it better.”

While many colleges and universities across the country are taking proactive steps to train the next generation of scientists, engineering, software designers and workers in STEM-related fields, HBCUs may be at the cutting edge of addressing critical needs in higher education and STEM.

In North Carolina, HCBUs are particularly active.

Last week, Fayetteville State University’s School of Education announced a $1.18 million scholarship program to increase the number of STEM teachers in the region’s public schools.

The program funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) provides scholarship opportunities for university upperclassmen and returning STEM professionals seeking teaching certificates provided they agree to teach in middle and high schools needing science and math teachers.

At North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, which educates more African-American engineers than any other university in the nation, the STEM House Living Learning Community will open to freshman starting this year.

This on-campus housing community is designed to support and encourage students majoring in STEM fields through exposure to ongoing research in STEM. The students living in the STEM House also will participate in the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), another NSF program that works to increase the number of minority students who successfully complete baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields to pursue graduate degrees.

Additionally, North Carolina A&T will be working with N.C. State University on a program to increase enrollment and retention in STEM graduates at their respective universities. The program includes summer programs for college readiness in STEM classes as well as research, tutoring, and mentoring programs.

The two universities also will participate in STEM field faculty exchanges throughout this current semester.

“I believe … the requirements of the new economy position HBCUs better than others to prepare students in these fields,” added Wilson. “If you are an African American, you actually have a better chance of becoming an engineer by going to North Carolina A&T or Howard than you do at a lot of other institutions, just based on the numbers.”

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