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Vice President Kamala Harris to visit Hampton to advocate for more focus on STEM

Her visit coincides with HBCU Week and the White House Initiative’s HBCU conference

As a part of National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week, Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Hampton University on Friday.

Harris’ visit will stress the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at HBCUs, and she will tour STEM facilities as part of the White House Initiative’s HBCU Week conference, which began Tuesday and ends Friday.

“Vice President Harris will continue her long-standing efforts to uplift and support HBCUs by visiting Hampton University. HBCUs play an important role in training for the future — and keeping our nation competitive through STEM education,” said Vince Evans, deputy director of the office of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, office of the vice president.

“During her visit, Vice President Harris will share how the Biden-Harris administration is committed to investing in these engines of opportunity to ensure that students of color share in the prosperity we are creating.”

In a prerecorded message during the HBCU Week conference, the Joe Biden-Harris administration said it wanted to empower and sustain the 100-plus HBCUs across the country and that Harris’ visit to Hampton will help highlight why these institutions are key to ensuring America’s STEM pipeline is strong.

“It’s very important. I think that STEM education is an area that we focus on a lot. There are not enough minorities in STEM education, which is something that we promote here at the university,” said Charrita Danley Quimby, vice president and chief of staff at Hampton University. “We have several federal grants that are built around giving students access and building a pipeline for African American STEM students.”

Hampton’s Center for Atmospheric Research and Education has conducted projects with NASA, including satellite projects and a severe weather center, which can detect bad weather miles away.

“Our students actually participate in research with our professors and other researchers on campus so they’re prepared for the world once they leave,” Quimby said. “We have the instrumentation and everything that they need here to give them the exposure and to prepare them for practical situations when they go into the workforce. We also encourage graduate studies in STEM so that they not only become practitioners, but researchers as well.” Twenty percent of Hampton’s 4,200 students are studying STEM-related fields.

Earlier this week, Biden signed an executive order on advancing educational equity, excellence and economic opportunity through HBCUs. The initiative aims “to work with agencies and organizations in diverse sectors to increase the opportunities for HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education to an increasing number of students.”

The Biden-Harris administration hopes other HBCUs will heed the president’s latest executive order and focus on funding and partnerships for educational research and advancement that’s on display at Hampton.

The president will propose $239 million in new funding for HBCUs in the coming year, with $72 million allocated as discretionary funding.

While language within the initiative doesn’t outline a direct course of action and an executive director for the initiative has yet to be named, the hope is that the initiative will provide more opportunities for HBCU students and institutions to receive federal grants and acquire new partnerships, both private and public.

Hampton president William R. Harvey said in a statement that he was excited about the executive order that he hopes will produce some positive results.

“In general, strengthening the capacity of HBCUs, to participate in federally funded programs, and to have more access and capability in securing some of those funded grants for research,” Quimby said about hopes for the new initiative. “We’re definitely interested in exposing our students to opportunities for federal grants. Our students have been in contact and talk with federal agencies and representatives about opportunities, and we want them to be able to take advantage of that.”

Mia Berry is a 2020 graduate of Notre Dame University with a B.A. degree in film, TV and theatre. She is the HBCU reporter for The Undefeated.