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Jackson State is the first historically black college and university (HBCU) to enter into a Mentor/Protégé Agreement under NASA’s Shared Services Center.

According to Jackson State University, the contract was signed in the atrium of  the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at the end of May.

“This is a game-changer,” said Joseph A. Whittaker, who serves as associate provost at Jackson State and has responsibility for research, sponsored programs, federal relations and Jackson State University globally.

“As a university, we must be able to market our capabilities,” Whittaker said. “The mentor-protégé arrangement will put JSU in a position where our corporate partner, Enterprise Services, will  help us to cultivate a business strategy for the future. As an HBCU – we have to move away from this idea of just going after set-aside money,” he added.

The partnership between Jackson State and its mentor, Enterprise Services LLC, formerly HP,  allows the university to bid, issue proposals and subcontract projects. 

Whittaker credited Troy E. Miller, a small business specialist at NASA Shared Services Center, for “supporting and building” Jackson State University’s mentor-protégé partnership.

NASA’s Small Business Office in Mississippi is responsible for outreach to large and small businesses. The NSSC small business specialist  is the primary advisor on acquisition and matters related to small business.

University personnel will receive training in business development planning and program/project management. Other benefits to JSU would include generating revenue and enhancing curricula, infrastructure and personnel.

JSU also foresees its scientific and innovation platforms as equipping students to develop state-of-the-art technology as they prepare to enter the workforce.

“After we learn from our mentor, we will be able to hold our own and become private contractors,” Whittaker said. “We will be able to do business as a university. We must be seen as a major competitor who’s qualified to accomplish things.”

While Dr. Whittaker served as academic dean of  Morgan State University’s Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences department, he was associate director of the NASA GESTAR Program from 2011 to 2016 – a five-year, $96 million cooperative agreement with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Sciences Directorate.

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