Funding HBCU Research: Making the Exception the Rule
Renowned HBCU researcher Marybeth Gasman today blogged about Fayetteville State University’s Center for Defense and Homeland Security, detailing its efforts to secure federal funding and road to becoming a Center of Excellence. Few folks know have a better independent perspective on HBCU structure and culture than Dr. Gasman, and she comes up big again with her latest post.
First, the center, which is directed by Curtis Charles, is interdisciplinary in its approach, bringing together 22 of the institution’s top faculty members that focus on issues of national security. With this approach, the institution is able to garner buy-in across the institution for the center. Second, with the center, Chancellor James Anderson is set on preparing the next generation of individuals working in national security and well as emergency management. Third, Fayetteville State put a business model in place and hired personnel that have great success in both securing and managing large federal grants. Fourth, the institution has created partnerships with industry, including faculty mentorship programs, student workstudy opportunities, and co-applying for grants.
There are two more steps included in FSU’s path to building its vital research center, but these four are the ones that deserve the most attention, because they are the most critical parts to building exemplary research for HBCUs.
There is a handful of HBCUs conducting research that impacts at a regional and national level. FSU joins North Carolina A&T, Jackson State, Morgan State, Howard, Tuskegee, Claflin, Hampton, Tennessee State, Fisk and North Carolina Central as annual, notable federal grant earners for pointed work in national security, public health, sociology, engineering and the natural sciences.
Should we expect every HBCU to be a research juggernaut? No. But given these are the only institutions conducting research to help black communities, should we expect a few more to gain national notoriety? Absolutely.
There are a few on the comeup. Alcorn State is doing great things with public health, and Saint Augustine’s is moving deliberately to be a player in the national security industry as well. Each of the aforementioned schools has appealed to private companies for technical expertise and partnership, and in return, a pledge to bolster their workforce through diversity initiative and research exchange. How do we keep that kind of momentum going?
Can the faith community play a role in funding support for research that benefits parishioners? I’m always shocked that more black churches are not actively pursuing or promoting heart health and diabetes initiatives at HBCUs, particularly when these diseases are a center of focus for outreach and awareness building.
Can regional agricultural companies be engaged to bolster adjunct faculty and research implementations? Hard to believe with all the work being done at Fort Valley State, state government and local agricultural companies don’t take more of a vested interest in the school’s success, considering that much of the upper management human resources and emerging knowledge base will be coming from Wildcat Nation.
These are all oversimplified versions of the questions HBCUs, government and private industries should be asking of each other. But if these questions were a little more public, with more names attached to a demand for answers, perhaps HBCUs would be better prepared to offer compatible research programming when these industries are ready to partner.