David Pax


The blog contains some of my thoughts on things like writing, science and how that all works together to affect society.

Minority-Serving Colleges and Universities Are Positioned to Serve as a Greater Resource for Meeting U.S. STEM Workforce Needs

Here is a great article, that can be found on the http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=25257&_ga=2.6314362.933459125.1545954730-1859493704.1545954730: about how to increase the number of STEM professionals/ scientists…..

WASHINGTON -- Higher education leaders, policymakers, and the private sector should take a range of actions to strengthen STEM programs and degree attainment in the nation’s Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. MSIs are underutilized resources for producing talent to fulfill the needs of the nation’s current and future STEM workforce, the report says.

“Given the projected demographic profile of our nation, the educational outcomes and STEM readiness of students of color will have direct implications for American’s economic growth, national security, and global prosperity,” said Lorelle Espinosa, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report, and vice president for research at the American Council on Education.

The report identifies promising strategies to support the long-term success of MSI students in STEM fields. MSIs’ most successful initiatives to support students are distinguished by intentionality: creating initiatives, policies, and practices tailored to meet students where they are in their college careers academically, financially, and socially, and doing so with a cultural mindfulness that moves students toward higher levels of academic achievement and self-confidence.

The report recommends that federal and state agencies, private and corporate foundations, and other stakeholders increase grants and form partnerships that enable implementation of promising strategies. 

Currently there are roughly 700 two- and four-year MSIs, which educate nearly 30 percent of all U.S. undergraduates.  Minority Serving Institutions traditionally fall into two categories. The first category includes Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges and Universities, which were established for the express purpose of providing access to higher education for a specific minority group. The second includes colleges and universities, such as Hispanic Serving Institutions, that are designated as MSIs by the U.S. Department of Education because they meet thresholds for enrollment (i.e., the percentage of students of color enrolled) and institutional expenditures. Importantly, the number of enrollment-based MSIs has grown significantly in the past 20 years, the report notes, and many more can be expected to emerge in coming decades as the nation’s demographics continue to change.

The report urges the nation to turn to MSIs as high-priority resources for STEM talent. When taken together, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions currently produce one-fifth of the nation’s STEM bachelor’s degrees. MSIs have markedly fewer financial resources than non-MSIs, and this disparity reduces their capacity to innovate and experiment with programs to support the nation’s workforce, to evaluate them, and to replicate those that prove effective.  Despite their limited resources, MSIs have been successful in providing a multifaceted return on investment for students, communities, and the STEM workforce, the report says. With targeted funding, attention, and support, they can contribute much more.

Based on a review of research literature, available data, and site visits to nine MSIs, the committee found evidence that seven broad strategies hold the greatest promise for strengthening the quality of STEM education and workforce preparation for MSI students:

  • Dynamic, multilevel, mission-driven leaders. Such leaders have a well-articulated vision and a willingness to hold themselves accountable for committing the necessary capital, educational resources, and services to meeting the particular needs of their student body.

  • Institutional responsiveness to meet students where they are. MSIs include a high percentage of low-income and nontraditional students, many of whom self-finance their education and attend school part-time while also working and supporting families. Institutions need to design and implement policies and practices that support students who may need additional academic, financial, and social support and flexibility.

  • Supportive campus environments. A welcoming and nurturing campus climate – one that supports a fundamental sense of community and an equity-oriented culture – contributes to academic attainment and professional commitment at MSIs.

  • Tailored academic and social supports. Intentional policies and practices and holistic supports, such as Summer Bridge programs and supplemental instruction, help guide students through higher education and make an important difference in persistence and success.

  • Mentorship and sponsorship. Strong mentorship is frequently cited in the research literature as key to student success at MSIs.

  • Availability of undergraduate research experiences. These experiences are often important for students who seek to gain entry into graduate programs and professional fields.

  • Mutually beneficial public- and private-sector partnerships. Such collaborations have the potential to provide alternative funding mechanisms and educational and research opportunities for students.

More Investment Needed to Support the Use of Promising Strategies 

Identifying what works at MSIs is only half the battle, the report says; substantial resources are also needed to help advance the success of MSIs and their students. Long-term commitments are needed from federal and state governments, tribal nations, and the philanthropic and private sectors. The report urges these stakeholders to increase funding opportunities in the form of government contracts and competitive and non-competitive grants, and to incentivize and support partnerships that enable promising strategies to be implemented. Targeted investments would enable MSIs to recruit and retain high-quality faculty, to procure and maintain state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities, to offer needed academic and social supports to students, and to compete effectively for access to federal grants and contracts that fuel important research discoveries and innovation.

At the same time, a significant share of responsibility for elevating the role of MSIs in the nation’s educational and infrastructure lies with MSIs themselves, said the committee. “For MSIs to be competitive in the educational marketplace and to contribute to the nation’s overall economic competitiveness, they will require bold leadership and a purposeful commitment to innovate, especially in an era where neither federal nor private funding is plentiful,” said committee co-chair Kent McGuire, program director of education at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The report offers a range of recommendations to stakeholders, for example:

  • Leaders at MSIs, including emerging and newly established MSIs, should develop policies and practices that create a culture of intentionality upon which evidence-based programs and strategies to support student success are created and sustained.

  • Leadership from within MSIs, non-MSIs, government agencies, private and corporate foundations, and other stakeholders should prioritize efforts to establish or expand mutually beneficial partnerships that support education, research and workforce training for the nation’s current and future STEM workforce.

  • Public and private funders – including federal agencies such as the Department of Education, Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation, among others; state agencies; tribal nations; and private and corporate foundations -- should continue to develop and expand grant competition programs that serve the nation’s MSIs.

  • As it considers regular adjustments to federal higher education policies and programs – including but not limited to the Higher Education Act – Congress should use the legislative process to incentivize greater investments in MSIs and the strategies outlined in the report.

The study was sponsored by the ECMC Foundation, Helmsley Charitable Trusts, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Wallace Foundation. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions relations to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit http://nationalacademies.org. A committee roster follows.

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Copies of Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


Policy and Global Affairs Division
Board on Higher Education and the Workforce

Committee on Closing the Equity Gap: Revitalizing STEM Education and Workforce Readiness Program's in the Nation’s Minority Serving Institutions

Lorelle L. Espinosa 
Vice President for Research
American Council on Education
Washington, D.C.

Kent C. McGuire (co-chair)
Program Director of Education
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Menlo Park, Calif.

Jim Bertin
Math Instructor
Chief Dull Knife College
Billings, Mont.

Anthony Carpi
Associate Provost and Dean of Research
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
City University of New York
New York City

Aprille J. Ericsson
New Business Lead
Instrument Systems and Technology Division
Goddard Space Flight Center
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Greenbelt, Md.

Lamont Hames
President and CEO
LMH Strategies Inc.
Washington, D.C.

Wesley L. Harris1
Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Eve J. Higginbotham2
Inaugural Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania

Spero M. Manson2
Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry, and
Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health
Colorado School of Public Health

James T. Minor
Assistant Vice Chancellor
California State University
Long Beach

Leo S. Morales
Chief Diversity Officer,
School of Medicine, and
Adjunct Professor
School of Public Health
University of Washington

Anne-Marie Núñez
Associate Professor
Department of Educational Studies
Ohio State University

Clifton A. Poodry
Senior Science Education Fellow
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Chevy Chase, Md.

William E. Spriggs
Department of Economics
Howard University; and
Chief Economist
Washington, D.C.

Victor K. Tam
Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa, Calif.

Cristina Villalobos
Myles and Sylvia Aaronson Professorship
School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Dorothy C. Yancy
President Emerita
Shaw University and Johnson C. Smith University; and
Board of Trustees
Morehouse College

Lance Shipman Young
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Chemistry
Morehouse College


Leigh Jackson
Staff Officer

1Member, National Academy of Engineering
2Member, National Academy of Medicine

Kris Butler
Technology Revelations

One of the unintended consequences of advanced technology is the need to make the implicit explicit. Removing technical limitations often uncovers implicit assumptions within systems, revealing assumptions that worked well within those technical limitations, but which start to crumble as the limitations are removed. We are seeing this happen now in Internet based communication, and until we update our social and political systems our communication technology will plateau.

Historically there was an implicit reciprocity in free speech. Anyone might stand in the public square and speak their ideas, with the reciprocity that anyone with opposing ideas would have their turn as well. Technology has now altered the shape of that public square, and to maintain the value of free speech we need to adapt to that new shape.

Reciprocity implies more than equal time, it implies equal risk. Standing in the public square requires a certain degree of courage, a willingness to risk that you may have disagreement, or may simply not be heard at all. Sometimes standing in the public square included a risk to life, freedom, or property, depending on the nature of the leaders at the time, but there was still a degree of reciprocity since the leaders could not act against a speaker without their motives being clearly understood.

Any distance communication changes the nature of reciprocity. High bandwidth distance communication has only been around a short time in the history of human evolution, too short a time for us to fully adapted to it yet. Large scale print, radio, and television are expensive to set up and operate, so their role was moderated by a combination of government and management. These media began to move away from the public square by having an editorial role involved in the content that was communicated, but they still had to be responsive to the public to some degree. The shape of the public square was changed, but still depended on a foundation of public trust.

Private broadcast technology through the Internet is very recent, and it does not have the foundation of public trust that print, radio, and television required to survive. Individuals can use technology to broadcast their ideas while filtering out other ideas. The reciprocity of risk is gone, as a death threat communicated by email is unlikely to bring any consequences to the sender, while potentially terrifying the recipient. Internet communication had not enlarged the public square, it has pulverized it.

A recent broadcast of the public radio program Reveal documented how Internet trolls can harm individuals through the asymmetrical use of technology. Without the reciprocity of the public square some people feel free to launch vile attacks that they would never say if there were some possible consequence to themselves. As with so many other technologies, the Internet itself is neutral, a potential source of both good and evil. We have not yet evolved the systems that will bring the Internet to the level where it can support the next generation of technological development.

Personal devices with Internet connections are starting to become prevalent, in the form of phone watches, health monitors, audio players, and other wearable. At some point these will develop further, into implants. The basic technology already exists, we already chip our pets in case they get lost, and it is not hard to adapt for humans. Some people have had chips or other technology inserted as a demonstration. Artistic uses of technology are a different blog topic, but medical implants are already being developed. An immediate need is an implanted blood glucose monitor to help diabetics manage blood sugar. Short term partially implanted Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) are regularly used by endocrinologists, and permanent fully implanted devices are being tested.

Realizing the full benefit of Internet connected devices will require rebuilding the reciprocity of the public square. While the benefit of an automatic connection of a medical monitor to your doctor is obvious, most people would not take advantage of it without a strong assurance of security. The possibility of a someone hacking the device is a significant concern. Looking at diabetes again, an artificial pancreas is near the capability of our current technology, and adding an Internet connection that could send routine data to your doctor and call for help if something went wrong would be very beneficial. Knowing that a simple comment in a chat room might lead to an attack on your health, though, would be a strong disincentive. Without reciprocity, without consequences to an attacker, widespread deployment of advanced personal technology will be hindered. Digital security by itself is not sufficient, time and again hackers have demonstrated an ability to break digital defenses.

In Without Gravity the approach to providing advanced personal technology includes reciprocity. When people reach the age where they can decide to receive implants there is a coming of age ceremony where they accept the responsibility of participating in an advanced civilization. Part of the ceremony is acknowledging that using their network connection to harm others could result in being disconnected from the network. In a world where life usually includes being networked disconnection is serious. Those who do not respect reciprocity within the network are excluded from it. Everything is proportional, of course, minor infractions receive minor penalties such as a short periods of disconnection. Overall, it builds a society that encourages the best aspects of network communication and discourages the worst aspects. In Without Gravity, reciprocity builds a stronger society.

We no longer live in a world where the implicit reciprocity of the public square can be counted on to moderate discussions. If we want to continue benefiting from connected technology we must make the implicit explicit. While it will still be some time before the sophisticated implants of Without Gravity are common, we must start now on building, or rebuilding, the public square.

Kris Butler