Hampton University Computer Science Department Hosts HBCU Computer Science Faculty Research Workshop

HAMPTON, Va. (July 18, 2019) – Hampton University, with Dr. Jean Muhammad, Department of Computer Science chair (PI) and Dr. Chutima Boonthum-Denecke (Co-PI), was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant (CNS-1849541) to host HBCU Computer Science Faculty Research workshops over the next year, promoting cross-institutional strategies.  

“Hampton University continues to be at the forefront of innovation. We are the first and only HBCU to have 100% control of a NASA mission and we have four satellites currently in orbit. Our renowned professors are helping lead the way for other institutions to succeed,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University President.

The Hampton University Computer Science Department held the first of two HBCU Computer Science Research Workshops, May 31 – June 1, 2019. This initiative was to facilitate HBCU computer science/computing faculty to collaborate and address the needs associated with broadening participation in the computing fields and create cross-institutional strategies to increase research outcomes. Workshop participants will engage in post-workshop meetings with the intent of submitting collaborative grant proposals to NSF.

Twenty-Seven faculty from 14 different HBCU institutions, along with NSF CISE representatives, were in attendance. Dr. Muhammad provided the following opening welcome: “the purpose of this workshop is collaboration. The goal of today is to bring us together, come up with ideas, and create draft proposals. There will be virtual meetings throughout the academic year and additional workshops at Hampton University to ensure collaborative research success across HBCUs. We do more than stand up and teach our classes; we nurture these minority students. It is our mission to develop the students academically and professionally, and we can do that with the help of NSF Broadening Participation funding in area of Computer Science.”

Dr. Fay Cobb Payton, Program Director at NSF in the Division of Computer and Network Systems, gave the attendees great information about securing NSF funding. Dr. Payton stated that, “the important point is to start early and communicate with the program director.”

Dr. Lawrence Potter, Chief Academic Officer/Provost of the University of District of Columbia, provided the keynote address on the necessity of HBCU collaboration. “The people in this room are here not by accident, it was deliberate and strategic. Talk to someone you don’t know, exchange contact information, learn from someone from another institution, and make the commitment to collaborate. Our task today is simple: to be free, to be brilliant and to be known,” said Dr. Potter.

In addition, there was a faculty research and grantsmanship panel which included Dr. Leland Burge, Howard University; Dr. Thorna Humphries, Norfolk State University; Dr. Jason Black, Florida A&M University; Dr. Chutima Boonthum-Denecke, Hampton University; and Dr. Briana Wellman, University of the District of Columbia. The panel members disseminated their successes and failures as well as their lessons learned.

There were also several working groups where attendees were able to work together in fields of interest such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Cyber Security, Computer Science Education, Data Science and Data Analytics.

“I am grateful to Dr. Kennth Calvert, the National Science Foundation, CISE/ CNS Division Director; Dr. Faye Cobb Payton, the Program Director of NSF, Division of Computer and Network Systems; Dr. Pamela McCauley, Program Director, NSF – I-Corps Program, and to Ms. Sharon Glivens, NSF CISE Program Analyst, for their discernible commitment to broadening the participation of underrepresented populations in computing and closely related disciplines,” said Dr. Michelle Penn-Marshall, Hampton University Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College. “I applaud Drs. Muhammad and Boonthum-Denecke, and our colleagues in the Department of Computer Science at Hampton University, for submitting a proposal to host a workshop that brought stellar speakers, workshop facilitators and computing related disciplines faculty members of our beloved HBCUs to collaborate to ensure more proposals are submitted by HBCUs to the National Science Foundation. I look forward to the successful projects that arise as a result of multiple institutions collaborating for this purpose.”

On the second day of the workshop, Dr. Orlando Taylor, Hampton University graduate and the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Research at Fielding Graduate University spoke to the HBCU faculty about the quest to broaden minority participation in STEM education and careers. “We can’t afford to under-educate or under-prepare populations in STEM. The United States cannot compete if we don’t get more students educated in STEM,” said Dr. Taylor.

The HBCU Faculty went away inspired and dedicated to engage in collaborative grant writing. The overall consensus was that there are common goals and initiatives; therefore, participants are stronger and have more impact utilizing cross-institutional strategies.

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