Thursday, March 02, 2017

Robinson visits Washington, DC for meetings with U.S. president and members of Congress

Florida A&M University (FAMU) Interim President Larry Robinson joined more than 80 leaders of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for strategy and listening sessions on Capitol Hill, and a visit to the White House.

At the invitation of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, on Feb. 27 and 28, HBCU presidents and chancellors met with U.S. President Donald Trump, White House officials, and members of Congress. On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order entitled, “White House Initiative to Promote Excellence and Innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

“I believe the opportunity to meet as a community of educational leaders and discuss strategies designed to allow us to work more effectively with those entering the federal sector anew, along with those who have supported HBCUs for years, was worth the trip alone,” said Robinson.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is a nonprofit that supports private and public HBCUs. University leaders started the first of their two-day schedule at the organization’s Washington, D.C. headquarters addressing topics such as expanding federal need-based financial aid, increasing federal investments in infrastructure, and enhancing contracts, grants, and partnerships with federal agencies to meaningful levels.

“It was empowering to witness so many HBCU leaders from all over the nation assembled in one place to discuss approaches to help us all improve,” said Robinson. “I’m very hopeful that these listening sessions will be followed by bold actions in the nation’s capital that will advance our institutions and help us better serve our students around this nation.”

HBCU leaders emphasized the importance of revising the Work Study allocation formula to help provide additional support to students while enhancing their employability. They also want to establish year-round Pell Grants, maximize Title III to full authorized funding levels, invest in HBCU facilities and infrastructure, and require federal agencies to significantly increase contracts and grants with HBCUs.

Prior to the listening sessions, Robinson met with members of the FAMU National Alumni Association’s Washington, D.C. chapter to discuss how they can help influence legislation that affects the University at the state and federal levels.

Robinson said FAMU’s students and faculty, as well as HBCUs in general, have demonstrated that with well-conceived strategies, along with adequate investment of resources, the nation will reap great benefits.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, although HBCUs comprise three percent of colleges and universities, they produce nearly one-third of African-American students receiving bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. Many FAMU graduates have filled critical voids in STEM fields and policy positions at federal, state and local agencies, as well as colleges and universities, and the private sector.

Ongoing efforts to produce critically important research and talent include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems led by FAMU and five educational institutions. The center trains students in emerging issues pertaining to coastal and marine ecosystems. Additionally, FAMU recently solidified a multimillion dollar partnership with Lockheed-Martin that will enable students and faculty to impact space exploration by working on the Orion spacecraft, which is poised to transport humans to Mars.

“The talented students we educate mean as much to the bottom line of the nation as they do to the fulfillment of our institution’s mission,” said Robinson. “If more resources were made available to our students and our faculty, who mentor them, we could spread our successes more broadly, and our nation would become even more competitive.”

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