Last February, President Obama renewed the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities to encourage collaboration between government agencies, educational associations, philanthropic organizations, the private sector and others to increase the capacity of HBCUs to provide high-quality education to a greater number of students.
The Department of Energy is committed to supporting education at HBCUs and has partnered with HBCUs on a variety of projects. As part of that commitment, today I met with Dr. William Harvey, Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and President of Hampton University, as well as Langston University President JoAnn Haysbert and Morgan State University President David Wilson. The presidents and I discussed how the Department can better engage HBCUs in our science and laboratory projects, and what lessons we can learn from the many ongoing and successful partnerships we have in place.
President Harvey highlighted Hampton University’s outstanding working relationship with the Department’s Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory. At Jefferson Lab, Hampton students have supported work conducted in the nuclear physics program. Now, Hampton is building on that partnership by working with Brookhaven National Laboratory.
President Wilson spoke about his school’s promising collaboration with the Department. Morgan State, which leads Maryland in the number of African American engineering graduates, is a member of the Department’s Energy Innovation Hub team that is developing ways to make buildings more efficient. Specifically, the school is working on ways to adopt technology developed by the Hub so it can be used in urban centers like Baltimore.
Finally, President Haysbert discussed Langston University’s partnership with the Department, the Oklahoma Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, and others to explore the market for and the benefits of developing and purchasing wind generated power. Particularly, Langston is focused on developing wind energy as an alternative energy source that can promote rural economic development -- supporting farmers and other HBCUs.
These examples show that HBCUs can play an important role in promoting American leadership in clean energy by training a new generation of scientists and engineers to discover and deliver energy solutions. To continue to support these efforts, the Department has awarded more than $31 million to HBCUs since 2009, including $22 million for research and development programs. These research dollars support initiatives at institutions including Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College to build the capacity to develop clean energy technologies on campus and to conduct studies on energy usage. Additionally, we have provided internships, grants and scholarships to students at a number of Historically Black institutions.
By continuing to expand and support our partnerships with HBCUs, we can encourage more students from minority communities to explore careers in science, engineering and mathematics. A diversity of students, from diverse backgrounds, will create a diversity of ideas, spurring innovation in the clean energy sector.
To learn more about the Department’s work with HBCUs, visit Office of Economic Impact and Diversity website.
Steven Chu is the Secretary of Energy.