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Remarks

Photo of Joseph Bordogna

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation
Biography

Remarks, 10-Year Anniversary Celebration of Greater Philadelphia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
October 8, 2004

Good evening. Thank you Dr. Guceri1 for your kind introduction and thanks to you Dr. Stephenson2 and your colleagues for your fine work within the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

On behalf of the National Science Foundation, I commend all the leaders and staff who are with us this evening for your steadfast purpose in advancing the Philadelphia Alliance to this 10-year milestone. I am particularly grateful to Steve Cox3 and Venice Keene4 , my long-term colleagues in this venture.

You all have collectively realized a grand achievement, and it's especially meaningful for me to be here, in my hometown, speaking about a program that is dear to my heart. I was privileged to be present at genesis when the then head of NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Dr. Luther Williams, invited a few of us to a workshop during his creation of the AMP program.

I was invited because of the national recognition of the Philadelphia Regional Introduction for Minorities to Engineering (PRIME) contribution to establishing a regional model for underrepresented minority participation and making it work. Later, as head of NSF's Engineering Directorate I was also privileged to benefit from the leadership of Congressman Louis Stokes for whom the AMP investment is deservedly named.

Now, as deputy director of the National Science Foundation, I am keenly aware of the formidable record of the Louis Stokes Alliances in enriching our science and engineering talent pool and contributing to broadening participation among institutions as well as among people. NSF is grateful for your hard work and commitment. I personally have enormous respect for your extraordinary contribution to this critical national cause.

At NSF, we believe the Alliances are situated splendidly for both increasing the number of underrepresented minority students in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, from K-12 to PhD and beyond, and concurrently playing a synergizing role in networking diverse institutions. In 14 years, more than 225,000 bachelor's degrees have been awarded to minorities participating in LSAMP -- 25,000 in the 2003 academic year alone. More than 200,000 students are currently enrolled.

In this region, the Alliance has helped more than 500 minority students earn bachelor of science degrees each year for the past five years. Over the 10 years of the alliance, the number of participating students who advanced to graduate study in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology disciplines has increased threefold. And participating students are now earning Ph.D's.

For years, the nation has struggled to transform its workforce into one that's more representative of the population, and to engage institutions in partnerships toward that end. Here, within the Philadelphia Alliance, you have rolled up your sleeves and are making broadened participation a reality.

Historically, science and engineering have been advanced by a diverse mix of people. Their gifts have included a diversity of ideas and related marketplace accomplishments that resulted in revolutionary changes in the way we think, work, and live -- and in Society's technological infrastructure, much of it invisible, that enhances our lives and that we now take for granted.

From our nation's earliest beginnings, -- our scientists, engineers and inventors have characterized the essence of the United States' eclectic capacity to perform brilliantly on the world's stage.

Just as the nation's past is a melding of cultures and viewpoints, so, too, our future can be assured only by integrating ideas coming from all segments of the population. In terms of integration, our still nascent knowledge-based society places a premium on creativity, innovation and ensuring that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts -- a veritable fever of curiosity and realizing ideals that explode old paradigms with astonishing insights. Broadening participation is inimitable to this end.

In the words of Martin Luther King, we need to continue moving forward " with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future." Today's scientists and engineers need audacious capabilities that enable them to work robustly across boundaries, to handle ambiguity, to integrate, to innovate, to communicate and to cooperate.

These are components of a holistic education that not only suits the science and engineering of our times, but also thrives on diversity. The differences in race, ethnicity, and gender that abound in our society are a positive force to spur this creativity and dynamism. Any divisions will only hold us back and sap our energy unless we erase them.

To cope with these challenges and ensure our common prosperity, we will need the talents of everyone. We can't afford to leave a single person behind. Diversity is our nation's competitive advantage, and we must capitalize on it.

As we set our sights on the need to move forward to accelerated action, a good place to start is by asking the right questions and clarifying our vision and strategy. Toward that end, I want to offer some contrasting viewpoints on what broadening participation in science and engineering IS NOT about, as a way of suggesting what it IS about.

First, it is NOT about the total number of scientists and engineers the nation may or may not need. It's easy to get distracted by trends and statistics cited in the news and debates about whether the demand for science, engineering, and technological workers is greater or less than the supply.

It IS about including a larger proportion of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in the scientific workforce, no matter the size of that workforce. Whatever the numbers turn out to be, we need a robust and varied mix, and that means broadening participation. That's why I'm so passionate about the LSAMP achievements.

Second, diversity is NOT just about the number of minorities studying science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. We must not become complacent because of promising trends in our schools or in programs like LSAMP. We can't meet the goal of a representative workforce simply by conferring a larger number of degrees.

It IS about providing the right kind of education for the times and the support and infrastructure to retain students, through a seamless transition from college or university to graduate school and beyond, into the disciplines and interdisciplines that fuel science and engineering innovation.

The growth of community colleges, and the inclusion of the Community College of Philadelphia in the LSAMP program, for example, underlines the importance of broadening participation across the board, especially to include institutions where most of the underrepresented minorities are.

We need to focus equal attention on what happens after baccalaureate graduation. The LSAMP program, "Bridge to the Doctorate," begins to address this. More than 300 students are enrolled in this two-year-old program, which is extending NSF support and LSAMP activities to students continuing on to graduate school. This effort, in partnership with NSF's AGEP (Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate) investment, can lead us to a wonderfully robust pool of potential faculty to help lead academe.

Third, it is NOT about the number of foreign-born students, scientists or engineers who study or work in the U.S. They have always been a source of strength for our society and economy, and a way of lifting human potential globally.

It IS about fully developing our domestic talent. In our knowledge-intensive society, we need to capitalize on all available intellectual talent, not only to advance the frontier but also to keep our nation humming day by day. Although we are doing better than we did thirty years ago, we have not yet seriously tapped our nation's competitive "ace-in-the-hole" -- women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities. Now we are playing catch up in a very competitive world. We need to understand that diversity is an asset and dissimilarity a valuable component of progress.

An open door policy that educates and enables our own citizens to be contributing participants in our great democratic system as well as continuing the successful policy of embracing those from abroad will make us a genuine welcoming nation both to talent from abroad and from the nation's women and underrepresented minorities.

Fourth, it is NOT about building an independent national workforce to isolate ourselves from the world. Science and engineering have always been international. In today's increasingly networked world we are unlikely to staunch the flow of mobile and global enterprises, into and out of our borders, even if we wanted to.

It IS about educating domestic scientists and engineers with a globally competitive edge. To be on the frontier of discovery and in the vanguard of innovation requires new capabilities and skills that are qualitatively different from production-line education that turns students into commodities bought on the global marketplace at the cheapest price. We want to create an environment that attracts an eclectic and diverse array of domestic students to pursue studies in science and engineering, and encourages them to stay the course. We need a variety of learning paths that yield creative, world-class scientists and engineers, able to compete splendidly on any playing field.

Fifth, it is NOT about demanding that our students learn more and more about a core specialty only. It is intellectually necessary for each to develop a core disciplinary competency, but knowledge is changing rapidly and disciplines are intersecting and overlapping. Sticking to a linear path could be a recipe for obsolescence.

It IS about educating and training the future scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists to work in cross-boundary teams, and to prepare for flexible and diverse career paths.

And boundaries are more than disciplinary ones. At a time when U.S. leadership in many fields of science and engineering is being challenged by other nations, it is time to communicate and cooperate across traditional lines and national boundaries. And it is, especially, a time to employ the rich multicultural perspectives available within our own borders.

Emerging engineering skill sets deriving from nanoscope, bioscope, terascope, cognitive knowledge and the intricate, multifaceted, and informative web enabled by computer-communications, demand a diversity of workers educated in new ways of thinking and with the capacity to use the new enabling tools increasingly available. If one can develop at least a sense of these complexities as a student, he or she will be able to face the open-ended character of today's problems with alacrity.

Sixth, broadening participation is NOT going to succeed if the research and teaching professions continue to be dominated by only a few elements of our national diversity.

It IS necessary to provide leaders and role models who will be able to attract and recruit younger generations of minorities, because these young people will be more enthused about learning and working under mentors from similar backgrounds and traditions.

One of the great promises of the LSAMP program is in building this continuity. A few years down the road, the graduates of the Louis Stokes institutions will be an integral part of the pool of candidates from which we recruit our research and teaching professors, and our high school teachers. We want those candidates to be more representative of the population.

We believe that the mentoring and nurturing aspects of this program are significant factors in inspiring students to want to make a real difference to society. One-on-one interactions, especially, expose students to the personal side of science and engineering careers, where they can see both the hard work and the exciting rewards. We need more inspirational figures like Louis Stokes. In Congress and in his subsequent public appearances promoting minority rights and education, he has helped raise the issue of diversity to national attention.

The last point I want to make is that our goal is NOT about working from the bottom up or from the top down. We are frequently asked, "How is the National Science Foundation going to solve these problems?" NSF is a willing and able player. We share your commitment of bringing the range of available talent into the fold of science and engineering. But we are not capable of addressing all the issues single-handedly.

Broadening participation IS about working together. The 32 Louis Stokes alliances are collaborations among more than 400 colleges, universities, and institutes across the country. NSF's support has increasingly grown, reaching approximately $34 million in 2004. Additional funds come from the academic institutions and from corporate and non-profit sponsors.

By leveraging federal investments, we are greatly expanding the reach of our programs among underrepresented minorities. And by involving the private sector, we are ensuring that graduates will meet the changing needs of business and industry. It is the varied, richly textured and shaded fabric of diversity -- not any single thread -- that provides durability and strength to our science and engineering enterprise - and thus to our nation. Diversity -- once given scope and opportunity -- has the potential to shape, to transform, and to drive our future for the better.

We need all available talent to maintain the nation's pace of discovery and innovation. Fortunately, we know where to find it.

A lot of talent lies here in this region. Your support is instrumental in moving that talent from the hallways of our schools and the streets of our cities to the forefront of discovery and innovation.

Once again, I commend the Philadelphia AMP for the excitement and encouragement that you have already brought to broadening participation, one student at a time.

Our common goal is to develop a critical mass. We still have a way to go, but with your continued leadership, we can look forward to many more years of success.


1 Selcuk Guceri, Dean, College of Engineering, Drexel University
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2 William Stephenson, Vice Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Policy, Drexel University
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3 Stephen Cox, Project Director, Philadelphia AMP
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4 Veniece Keene, Project Coordinator, Philadelphia AMP
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