African Americans earn 7% of degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) produce 18% of these graduates despite representing less that 3% of colleges and universities. HBCUs are also the undergraduate institution for 21% of African Americans who earn Ph.D.s in the STEM fields. With more resources, HBCUs have the potential to have an even bigger impact on innovation and creativity in STEM, and to engage the intellect of more future African American scientists.
In an effort to bolster success in STEM for African Americans, Agilent Technologies, a life sciences company, recently partnered with Delaware State University (DSU), one of the nation’s public HBCUs. The company is donating $1 million in scholarships for students pursuing STEM degrees at DSU.
Gregory MacKenney, the vice president of Agilent’s instrument supplies business, an alumnus of historically Black Morgan State University, and co-founder of Agilent’s networking group for Black employees shared, “The Agilent donation will help ensure this historically underinvested and underrepresented community is getting the resources needed to have an even greater impact.”
In addition to the $1 million contribution, Agilent is providing lab supplies and infrastructure to outfit DSU’s College of Agriculture, Science and Technology. According to HBCU faculty participating in a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) listening session, HBCUs face inequities in terms of infrastructure, which make it difficult for their faculty to conduct research and secure federal grant support at equitable levels. In addition, a recent Forbes story detailed how HBCUs have been starved of funding by state governments for decades, leading to inequities in infrastructure.
The Agilent partnership also involves mentorship for DSU students by Agilent scientists and researchers, and funding for DSU’s summer internship program for science students. Research shows that mentoring is essential to success in STEM, and that it is especially important that mentors help emerging scholars see themselves as scientists. Agilent’s support will also build the research capacity of a consortium of HBCUs in the mid-Atlantic region of the nation led by Delaware State. The consortium includes Morgan State University, Lincoln University, and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.
“Many believe that this is a renaissance moment for HBCUs. It’s not,” said DSU President Tony Allen. “We’ve been doing the work for 175 years—building the most useful pipeline for African Americans to the American middle class and breaking new ground in every field of human endeavor.” He added, “Agilent understand[s] the work and [is] connecting with our system for the long term.” By “renaissance moment” Allen is referring to the increased interest in HBCUs from philanthropists, corporations, potential students, and the federal government in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent large-scale protests for justice across the nation.
As part of the partnership, Agilent is double-matching employee donations to HBCUs through the end of the year. The investment in HBCUs is part of Agilent’s broader philanthropic work, which focuses on increasing the pipeline of early-career professionals entering the life-sciences sector and addressing climate change and larger environmental issues. “DSU has a tremendous pool of talented STEM students,” said Agilent President Mike McMullen. He added, “This partnership will help us provide direct support to these students and encourage more scholars at HBCUs across the mid-Atlantic to consider opportunities at Agilent and within the broader life sciences sector.”
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