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Photo of Joseph Bordogna

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

Congressional Black Caucus'
Annual Legislative Conference

Washington, D.C.
September 25, 2003

Good afternoon to all of you.

Thank you for inviting me to the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Conference. I am delighted to participate in the discussion on a subject that's both a concern and passion of all of us in this room: diversifying America's science and engineering workforce.

I also look forward to the release of BEST's findings and recommendations. NSF is pleased to be one of the initial agencies to provide funding for BEST and the lead agency that supported the work of the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology (CAWMSET). I remember well the daily activity around my office as the work of this commission progressed and want to recognize its leader, Dr. Wanda Ward, who is in the audience with us today.

The work of that Commission, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and former Congresswoman Connie Morella, led to the establishment of BEST.

Today's discussion is a matter of great national importance. So, I'm energized that we are here to talk collectively about strategies to encourage, retain, and enhance the participation of all citizens in the S&E workforce. As Susan Sclafani has said earlier in this discussion, it's a team effort.

In the past two decades, our knowledge has exploded, and the pace of science and technology has accelerated with it.

Developments in science, engineering, and technology have moved us into a whole new threshold of capabilities that will catapult us beyond today's horizons.

The emergence of nanotechnology enables us to manipulate materials on the atomic scale and will build all manner of useful capacity into every facet of our lives, ranging from the clothes we wear to advancements in energy efficiency.

Bioscience and engineering enable us to realize medical advances yet unimaginable. And information technology enables us to communicate across the globe instantaneously, potentially placing the knowledge of humankind at everyone's fingertips.

Maintaining the momentum of discovery and innovation, such as these examples, illustrate, will require the skills and knowledge of all of our available talent.

Fortunately, we know where the available talent lies, and we are committed to bringing them into the science and engineering talent pool.

Our nation's future prosperity and security, and our ability to compete in a global economy, vitally depends – bottom line – on the quality of our workforce. I'd go further and say the future success of our nation depends on strategy meetings like this one, which develop best practices for diversification.

All of us recognize that the creation of a 21st Century S&E workforce representative of our diverse citizenry is critical to our success as a nation. If we miss this opportunity, the loss will cut two ways – it will rob worthy individuals of the chance to enrich their own lives and those of their families, and it will undermine our ability as a nation to prosper in an increasingly competitive world.

Said another way, every citizen must be "counted" in when providing opportunities and must be "counted" on for contributions to our society's well being. Today, and for the far future, the well-being of individuals and of the nation will depend on how well we prepare all our human resources.

We all know that wanting to broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities and women in science and engineering is just not enough. There must be strategies and a plan for action that create a path for making this happen. BEST is laying down a national, robust path to travel on this quest, and NSF is party to the adventure.

NSF encourages diversification across all funding programs. As a matter of policy, we return – without review – any proposal for funding that does not separately address broader impacts such as, for example, how well a proposed activity broadens the participation of underrepresented groups and to what extent it will enhance the infrastructure for research and education in science and engineering.

We also administer several programs specifically oriented at underrepresented communities. Their goal is to determine a set of "best practices" which could eventually be adopted throughout NSF and beyond – at all levels in the educational community, in private industry, and by other federal agencies involved with science and engineering or science and engineering education. BEST points out that "stand-alone" programs are not enough to achieve success. They need to be integrated into a seamless part of the organization. This focus is congruent with NSF’s focus on integrating across boundaries of all kinds.

NSF's education and research programs integrate across the spectrum from kindergarten to lifelong learning.

We know that there is no better place to begin than with our children. Helping to ensure that every child can participate in the nation's prosperity and contribute to its progress is a major goal at NSF. All students will need increasing levels of math, science, and technical skills to thrive in our competitive, knowledge-based economy.

NSF's 2004 budget request includes $200 million for the Math and Science Partnership program. This is the third installment of a $1 billion, five-year investment to raise the performance of U.S. students in mathematics and science. The program links local schools with colleges and universities to support teachers in their work and visions and provide an enabling curriculum for every student. And it creates innovative ways to reach out to underserved students and schools. This kind of partnership between different educational institutions is a theme that is repeated in many of NSF's programs.

Moving to the next level, we have several programs that partner community colleges, where a very large proportion of underrepresented minorities and women receive their higher education, with high schools and universities. NSF's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program is an investment in preparing a national technological workforce intended to be world class and the vital core for 21st century industrial and commercial leadership.

The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program is a wonderful success story centered around the undergraduate experience. LSAMP develops strategies to strengthen the preparation of, and increase the number of, minority students earning baccalaureates in science and engineering fields. It partners research universities with both 2 and 4-year colleges.

Today there are nearly 400 institutions participating in LSAMP, and the program has produced nearly 200,000 minority baccalaureate graduates in science, engineering, mathematics and technology. In 2003 alone, there were over 22,000 baccalaureate graduates in these fields.

NSF's Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) promotes continuing improvements of science, engineering and technology instructional and outreach programs. Typical project implementation strategies include course and curricular reform and enhancement, faculty professional development, supervised research and other active learning experiences for undergraduates in science and engineering programs.

HBCUs have a tremendous success rate, sending students on to study for advanced degrees in numbers disproportionate to their size. The HBCU-UP program tries to capitalize on this success.

At the graduate level, NSF funds the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program. This program seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minority students receiving doctoral degrees in all disciplines funded by NSF. The scarcity of role models and mentors in the professoriate constitutes a significant barrier to producing minority graduates. NSF is particularly interested in increasing the number of minorities who will enter the professoriate in these disciplines. Our vision is to enable the nation to have a robust pool of PhD graduates from which colleges and universities can draw their faculties.

The Foundation also sponsors the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program, which supports improvement of the research and training capabilities at the most productive minority serving institutions.

CREST makes funds available to promote the creation of new knowledge, enhance faculty competitiveness, and build intellectual, research and infrastructure partnerships.

That brings us to our Workforce for the 21st Century priority area. This initiative undergirds the very core of the Foundation's mandate and mission to advance the frontiers of science and engineering and to promote high quality science and math education from primary school through graduate education.

We have developed building blocks of this workforce initiative over years and even decades. Together with programs like the Math and Science Partnership, LSAMP, and AGEP, and others, they will help us reach our goal of building a strong and diverse science and engineering workforce. Consistent with the vision of BEST, the Workforce for the 21st Century investment at NSF is intended to make the whole greater than the sum of the individual building blocks.

NSF can help lead the way, but it will take all our efforts to ensure that these strategies are broadly implemented. I encourage you all to find out if institutions in your community are aware of these programs and participating in them either directly or by adopting the most successful educational materials and techniques that have come out of them.

This is the outline of what NSF is trying to do to broaden participation in the critical science and engineering fields. Your role is extremely important, and I hope that we can continue to enjoy lively discussions to further increase NSF's capabilities and yours.

Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.


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