Educating teachers, scientists, engineers, physicians, and others has been a responsibility that historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have fulfilled for nearly 200 years.
Those who have attended HBCUs or had firsthand experiences with these renowned schools in other ways are most familiar with what makes them special and why they are such an integral part of America’s higher education system.
US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine asked two individuals who are well acquainted with HBCUs to share their thoughts on the benefits of the schools and why they are deserving of individual and corporate support.
Dr. Reginald J. Perry is an electrical and computer engineering professor and former associate dean for student affairs and curriculum at the joint Florida A&M University-Florida State University (FAMU-FSU) College of Engineering. He received bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“HBCUs need the same type of corporate support provided to non-HBCUs. Many schools would like to develop long-term relationships with corporate partners, which benefit both parties. The corporation develops a pathway for future employees while the school receives guidance on how to prepare their students for the ‘real world.’ It is a mutually beneficial relationship.”
“I have had the privilege of seeing many of our graduates go on to have very successful careers. I have learned from this experience that one of the most important decisions a young person can make is to attend a school that will be a good fit for them. Many factors go into this decision, including the student experience, variety of academic programs, availability of co- and extra-curricular activities, location, size, cost of attendance, etc. For some students, HBCUs check off ‘all of the boxes.’ In 2018, almost 300,000 students chose an HBCU as the school, which could help them reach their short- and long-term goals.
“There is another value to attend an HBCU as an undergraduate student if you are eventually interested in earning a doctorate in science or engineering. According to the 2019 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report from the National Science Foundation, Black and African Americans receiving a science or engineering doctorate between 2013 and 2017 were almost twice as likely to have received their bachelor’s degrees from an HBCU. However, this is not a new trend, but a fairly consistent one over the last several years.”
Karmyn Norwood is the deputy vice president of the sensors and global sustainment line of business and vice president of rotary-wing & ground programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Company. She is responsible for establishing strategy, direction, and execution oversight for the full product lifecycle of domestic and international products for all rotary wing and ground programs, including Apache and Advanced Rotary Wing & Ground Systems. As the deputy vice president of sensors and global sustainment, she provides programmatic performance, risk, and opportunity assessments and recommendations.
Norwood holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Jackson State University, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Mason University, and an executive M.B.A. from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
“I am a proud graduate of Jackson State University (JSU), the fourth-largest university in Mississippi. The time I spent at JSU laid a solid foundation for me both academically and culturally. I know firsthand how HBCUs offer such a nurturing environment for African American students to thrive and ultimately be valuable assets to corporations throughout the world. This experience lit a fire in me, and I have become a huge supporter of HBCUs financially and volunteering my time. As I interact with students, I see myself. I want those students to have the same experiences I had. I want them to be successful throughout their life and professional career. This requires an investment!
“Corporations also see the value of investing in HBCUs because of the pool of diverse talent they can tap into. Historically Black Colleges and universities account for 17 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans and 24 percent of the degrees earned by African Americans in STEM professions. As an employee at Lockheed Martin, I am so proud that our corporation has been named the Top Supporter of HBCUs for the past seven years. Lockheed Martin has over 100,000 employees, with more than 50 percent of those employees being scientists and engineers. Talent is a strategic priority to ensure a pipeline of talent to take on these jobs in the future.
“Lockheed Martin partners with many HBCUs and these partnerships not only enable recruitment of the best and brightest talent but offers our corporation an opportunity to invest in programs to help build the best and brightest talent. We invest in key areas like curriculum development, summer bridge programs, lab upgrades, faculty exchanges, internship programs, mentoring, and coaching opportunities. These partnerships have enabled Lockheed Martin to increase hiring from minority-serving institutions by more than 300 percent over the last five years. In addition to recruiting, Lockheed Martin’s commitment to HBCUs and partnering for inclusion demonstrates to our African-American employees that
“I believe the greatest value that I gained from attending an HBCU can be summarized by four words: academics, culture, networking, and support. First, the strong academic excellence prepared me to be the executive that I am today. From a cultural perspective, my time at Jackson State University provided a connection to Black history. I learned all about our rich history and even how JSU helped shape American history in a unique way. I read an article that said ‘an HBCU is like being in Black History Month every month or living in Wakanda every day.’ I completely agree!
“My understanding of how rich Black history strengthens my confidence in who I am and who I could become. Third, my HBCU alumni network has helped me establish lifelong friends and built a safety net for me as I entered corporate America. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Lastly, support from the administration and faculty is unparalleled. I attributed much of my success to the support and guidance I received from instructors. I always say that behind every successful African-American student who attended an HBCU, there is a tribe, a community who has their backs and helps them succeed.”