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Dr. Bordogna's Remarks


"Taking LSAMP into the Future"

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
Washington/Baltimore/Hampton Roads
Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation
Howard University

September 12, 2002

Good morning to you all. Thank you, Bill1 , for the introduction, and thanks to you and to Provost Caldwell2 for your fine work with LSAMP. Let me also say how grateful I am to President Swygert3 -- and to all the leaders with us today -- for providing the supportive atmosphere and commitment to excellence that makes for LSAMP success.

I'm delighted to be here at Howard University for this meeting of the Washington/Baltimore/ Hampton Roads-LSAMP. We are gathered to talk about a matter of great national importance: how to diversify the science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce.

I'll begin by congratulating all of you here who have labored long and hard to achieve LSAMP's goals. We are all aware of the tremendous effort it takes to design and operate a successful program. You have done a magnificent job of increasing the participation of underrepresented minority students in science and engineering.

The LSAMP program overall is a wonderful success story. Since it began in 1990, the program has produced well over 170,000 minority baccalaureate graduates. This year, student participants in LSAMP reached an all time high of 201,615 enrollees.

And the LSAMP umbrella is continuously expanding. Three new alliances were recently added - the Pacific, Northeast, and Mid-Eastern LSAMPs. The WBHR-LSAMP alliance has added new partners as well. Welcome to all of you! With this impressive and growing reach, we can be assured that LSAMP will continue to enhance minority participation.

All of us at NSF appreciate your consistently effective work of recruiting bright and talented students to science, engineering, mathematics and technology disciplines. And, your commitment to mentoring and nurturing, especially your one-on-one interactions, has made the difference for many students in earning their degree.

Congratulations are no less in order for LSAMP students. I don't have to remind the students who are with us today, how much plain, hard work and determination go into learning, or list the many hurdles each of you has surmounted. You can take pride in your achievements. As you move on to advanced studies, or set forth on new careers, you will continue to pave the way for those who follow.

That's one of the special strengths of LSAMP. It brings together learners and teachers alike in a partnership that demands the best efforts of each.

Just yesterday we remembered the tragic events of one year ago. The nation remains united around common goals in the face of adversity. Our changing circumstances have created new demands and called forth new responsibilities. During the 1990s we learned just how important science, engineering, and technology are to economic vitality and our prospects for a higher quality of life. Now we add national security to the list.

This is surely a time when we need all our talent to meet new responsibilities. This group knows better than most the strength and advantages that we can gain by realizing our untapped potential.

That brings us to why we are all here today. We are united in the need to diversify the science and engineering workforce so that it reflects the ever-changing composition of our nation. This is not only the "right" and "just" thing to do, but also the "best" move to make for the nation's future. And your hard work with WBHR-LSAMP has already brought us steps closer to making it a reality.

We all know why this is our "best" path. But the story is worth retelling. Until everyone hears this message - loud and clear - we won't move far enough, fast enough. So let me briefly cover this familiar landscape once again.

Our society is rooted in science and technology and cannot sustain itself, let alone be robust, without a world-class cadre of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and a highly qualified, complementary workforce.

Broadening participation in our specialized science and engineering workforce must come from "The Land of Plenty," our mostly untapped potential of underrepresented minorities - America's "competitive edge" for the 21st century. Herein lies one of America's greatest opportunities, one that we must meet with commitment.

The general workforce today reflects more gender equality, and cultural and racial diversity than ever before. Yet, we still have a long way to go in reaching out and cashing in on the talents and skills of many more of our citizens.

In contrast, the science and engineering workforce does not show the same trend as the general workforce towards a representation at least in parity with our population. At present, we are not producing a diverse cadre of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians necessary to meet the needs of today's technology-based society.

This is especially troublesome now and for the future.

First, U.S. jobs are growing fastest in areas requiring knowledge and skills in science, engineering and mathematics.

The Department of Labor estimates that 60% of the new jobs being created in our economy today require these skills, while only 22% of young people now entering the job market possess them. By the end of this decade, virtually every job will require some level of technological literacy. Unfortunately, our high school graduates are ill prepared for the changing demands of today's workforce.

We simply must do a better job preparing our students for a world that we ourselves cannot completely anticipate. Our entire workforce must be educated and trained to participate fully in a society that is increasingly complex but potentially more fulfilling for each of us. Our science and engineering workforce, in particular, will be critical to the task.

Second, as the pack of nations with economies enabled by technology continues to grow, they present both potential partners and growing competition for U.S. products and services in the world market.

How are we going to compete, or partner for that matter, if we don't have the necessary human capital to do so? Diversifying the science and engineering workforce is vital to sustaining our economic pace and continuing our ability to compete.

Focusing on broadening participation of underrepresented minorities has to be the drumbeat for all of us. Our science and engineering workforce can become ever more capable and competitive by achieving this goal. They can, in turn, help raise the capabilities of all citizens. Our nation can become even stronger and more productive.

That, in a nutshell, is the case for broadening participation in the workforce, and for raising the science, engineering and mathematics skills of all our young people. We ignore these responsibilities at great peril. It is simply unrealistic to believe that we can continue to lead the world economically, secure peace and protect our freedoms without the finest abilities of every citizen.

Here in this country, we are lucky to have a diverse population. Unfortunately, we haven't recognized it as a gold mine. Our diversity provides us with different perspectives, an eclectic set of problem solving skills, a talent for tapping into the psyche of global markets, not just domestic markets, and a mix that strengthens our national fabric.

The increasing complexity of science and engineering issues today demands that we marshal these differing perspectives and bring them to the table where issues are defined and solutions rendered. It's not just a matter of justice and fairness. It's a matter of being smart. There's no better way to capture global leadership than by capitalizing on our nation's extraordinary diversity!

That brings me to my second topic: what can we say about future goals? We already know of the terrific job that the LSAMP program is doing in broadening minority participation. LSAMP students account for 70 percent of all minority baccalaureates in science and engineering. That's a splendid success story by any standards.

The challenges ahead are still huge, but we are wiser and more confident in our progress. In the current climate of increasing opportunity and more urgent need, I believe we can raise our expectations. The times are right for setting new goals and striving for even greater accomplishments.

Here is one example. For each of the last several years, LSAMP baccalaureates have numbered over 20,000. Even with LSAMP's success, our nation could use at least 50,000 minority science and engineering graduates each year. We know the talent is there. It's up to all of us to create the educational and institutional innovations that will make that goal a reality.

Another challenge is moving more LSAMP students on to graduate studies, and producing more minority PhDs directed towards faculty positions. If we can pull from the LSAMP pool, we will have made tremendous strides.

You have shown that LSAMP leaders are masters at smoothing transitions, those critical junctions where students too often tumble down rocky paths. The time is ripe to take more LSAMP students to the next level. The Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate - AGEP for short - has set the pace in just a few years.

But our challenge is much larger. If we are going to develop a broader workforce in science and engineering, we need to reexamine our assumptions about education across the board, from kindergarten to lifelong learning. NSF is committed to this task.

To prepare students for science and engineering careers, NSF programs start with early education. The President's Math and Science Partnership program aims to "leave no child behind." We are in total agreement with this goal.

The program will link local schools with colleges and universities to improve preK-12 math and science education, train teachers, and create innovative ways to reach out to underserved students and schools.

Here is another area where talented LSAMP students are critically needed! Teaching at the preK-12 levels is crucial to this long-term goal, and many LSAMP programs are leading the way.

But NSF's commitment doesn't end there. We especially hope to develop research evidence on how to reach under-served schools and students in creative new ways.

These efforts are elements in NSF's larger, integrated strategy to promote science, technology, engineering and math training to a broader constituency. NSF has a long tradition of support for innovation in science, engineering, mathematics and technology education. Now, in the NSF Workforce for the 21st Century priority area, we will build on what we have learned in the past to develop an even more effective, more ambitious undertaking.

Our aim is to embed minority participation strategies across the full spectrum of NSF programs. That means identifying our most successful programs to encourage minority participation - like LSAMP, AGEP, and Centers of Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) - and bringing them together with other highly successful programs. Among these are Research Experiences for Undergraduates, the HBCU-Undergraduates Program, the GK-12 program, the Math and Science Partnerships, to name just a few. Other NSF centers of excellence - Science and Technology Centers, the Engineering Research Centers, the Centers for Learning and Teach and the Long Term Ecological Research Program - may also contribute to campus programs.

The idea is to weave together what are now separate but complementary efforts and to integrate these activities across and among institutions. These new institutional collaborations aim to produce results different from and greater than the sum of the parts. The final vision is a seamless route of advancement for students from K-12 through postdoctoral levels.

This vision will only be realized through a wave of innovation that you initiate. Innovation is key to moving beyond our current performance to fresher, more inclusive, more productive, educational systems.

NSF has always relied upon the science and engineering community to provide this innovation. The best ideas come from you, as you respond to the circumstances and needs that confront you daily, and imagine the shape of a better future.

If you look at LSAMP programs across the nation, you will find astonishing diversity in the paths each program pioneers to reach the same, shared goal. The imagination, ideas, knowledge, and innovation that generate our progress will come from you and those you guide.

I believe there are significant synergies that we can foster through better integration. The rapidly changing nature of science and engineering research is presenting new demands that will only increase in the years ahead, and we must meet these demands at the same time as we work toward broader participation.

For example, we need to prepare graduates to adapt to change and handle complexity. They must be functionally literate across disciplinary boundaries as a skill for facing several iterations in their careers.

Today, careers evolve throughout a person's lifetime. Yesterday, workers mastered a profession and worked within the limited walls of a sole discipline. Now workers take the tools of their individual disciplines and expand them outward to new endeavors and cross-boundary interactions, changing the character of their disciplines in their wake.

We must also recognize that interdisciplinary work includes the social, behavioral and economic sciences. The social sciences are an important component in addressing many social problems, issues as diverse as the war on terrorism and workforce competency. Social sciences are integral to all of our work if we are to proceed with insight and understand the context and background of any problem.

That's why NSF plans to seed a new priority area in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences, called Human and Social Dynamics, that will investigate how humans and societies create and adapt to the changes that are a pervasive feature of our 21st century world. These explorations will give us better tools to anticipate and prepare for the consequences of change.

This sampling can only hint at the magnitude of the challenges ahead. I only bring these formidable tasks to you because I know you are capable, confident, and utterly conscientious!

Let me conclude by commending WBHR-LSAMP for your role in ensuring that the minority segment of the population is not left behind. You are creating excitement and encouragement among minority populations to participate enthusiastically in science and engineering careers. Without your help as leaders in this process, the United States will not be able to marshal the talents of our diverse minority population. I can only thank you profusely for a job well done and remind you we are still at the beginning.

Now it's your turn. I would be delighted to hear your comments and questions.


  1. Dr. William R. Gordon, WBHR-LSAMP Program Director
  2. Dr. A. Toy Caldwell-Colbert, Provost, Howard University
  3. Dr. H. Patrick Swygert, President, Howard University

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