By Paula Paige, Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va. – Sept. 2, 2009 – Saying America´s future depended on its ability to compete in the global marketplace, the U.S. Navy´s Chief of Naval Research addressed a gathering of presidents of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) Tuesday in Washington, D.C. He told them "in order to maintain the health of the defense science and engineering workforce, we must continue to engage every bright young mind that has the capability to help us invent the future."
Rear Admiral Nevin P. Carr Jr., whose office provides the science and technology needed to maintain the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps´ technological war-fighting dominance, was among more than 1,200 participants attending the 2009 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference. Held Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, the White House-sponsored event attracted federal, state and local agencies interested in invigorating the relationship between the surviving 105 HBCUs and the government.
For the Office of Naval Research, that relationship dates back to 1985 with initial funding for research at HBCU institutions, Carr said in his speech. In 1989, a dedicated program was established, supporting undergraduate and graduate students at five HBCUs. In 1992, investment increased to $6 million annually, then rose to $10 million in 1994. Through the mid-90s to 2002, ONR supported programs at 22 schools, among them HBCUs, and provided educational support for hundreds of deserving students. Ninety percent of those students graduated on time with undergraduate degrees in science and engineering, and 80 percent went on to get master´s degrees.
"Today, our HBCU programs include the summer faculty research program, the research and education partnership program, and the research partnership program--all directed towards increasing the participation of HBCU institutions in naval science and technology," Carr said. "We do this because we need to attract every bright young mind we can to a career in science and technology."
According to the National Science Foundation, only 31 percent of U.S. graduate students pursue degrees in science and engineering. As of 2004, only 35 percent of those graduates were from under-represented populations, such as African-American, Hispanic and Asian.
Carr´s presence at the event underscored ONR´s commitment to building the Navy´s future force through investment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics pipeline. The rear admiral was among distinguished speakers that included CIA Director Leon Panetta, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.
"Shifting demographics in the U.S. means we must focus our attention on reaching out more to diverse communities," Carr said. "The demographic trends are well established and clear…No single segment of any population can provide the needed capacity. We need to tap the entire crew."
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