How HBCUs Can Get Federal Sponsorship from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

By: La’Shanda Holmes, Danielle Wood & Ivory Toldson

“I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future. Because broadening our capabilities in space will continue to serve our society in ways that we can scarcely imagine. Because exploration will once more inspire wonder in a new generation — sparking passions and launching careers. And because, ultimately, if we fail to press forward in the pursuit of discovery, we are ceding our future and we are ceding that essential element of the American character.” – President Barack Obama


This series is designed to expand federal support of HBCU research, programs, and outreach through competitive grants and contracts. The White House Initiative on HBCUs (WHIHBCUs) believes that increasing revenue to HBCUs from federal grants and contracts is vital to the long term sustainability of these institutions. By developing innovative proposals, working with HBCU liaisons at federal agencies and taking advantage of federal funding opportunities, HBCUs can increase the resources necessary to initiate and sustain vital programs.


  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) selected 10 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) for cooperative agreement awards valued at almost $47 million incrementally funded over five years. This award promotes STEM literacy, and enhances and sustains the capabilities of MSIs to perform NASA-related research and education. Five of the 10 MSIs were HBCUs.
  • In FY 2015 MUREP provided oversight to 111 active MSI awards across the United States, which help contribute to MUREP’s goals: enhancing the research, academic, and technological capabilities of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
  • NASA selected 20 students from across the nation to receive the agency’s Aeronautics Scholarship for the 2014-2015 school year. Undergraduate scholarship winners received $15,000 a year to cover tuition costs for two years and a $10,000 stipend during a summer internship with NASA. Graduate scholarship winners received approximately $45,000 a year for two years and $10,000 stipends for two summer internships.
  • In FY 2012, over 24,000 Space Grant-supported undergraduate and graduate students participated in scholarships, fellowships, internships and authentic hands-on research and engineering challenges.


The Office of Education is strengthening involvement with higher education institutions to ensure that The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) can meet future workforce needs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Participation in NASA projects and research increases the number of students who continue their studies at all levels of the higher education continuum and earn advanced degrees in these fields.

In 2013, NASA awarded over $23 million to HBCUs. Of that, $18 million went toward research and development, $1.5 million toward training, and over $600 thousand to student financial assistance. For fiscal year (FY) 15 NASA proposed a $56 million budget for the STEM Education and Accountability (SEA) program to support the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) and STEM Education and Accountability Projects (SEAP); $30 million will support MUREP and $26 million towards SEAP.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Overview

NASA is the federal agency responsible for the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, NASA pursues its vision of reaching new heights and revealing the unknown to benefit humankind through four Mission Directorates: Aeronautics Research, Space Technology, Science and Human Exploration and Operations. NASA science focuses on understanding the Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring the Solar System with advanced robotic spacecraft missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

White House Initiative on HBCUs’ Liaison to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

As the liaison between the White House Initiative on HBCUs (WHI-HBCUs) and NASA, Joeletta Patrick works with the WHIHBCUs to organize efforts to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs through increased participation in appropriate Federal programs and initiatives.

Specifically, Ms. Patrick helps further the mission of WHIHBCU by:

  • Hosting a series of webinars and conferences to educate HBCUs on funding opportunities available to them throughout the federal government;
  • Helping award multiyear grants to assist Minority Serving Institution’s faculty and students in research of pertinent missions;
  • Recruiting underrepresented and underserved students in STEM disciplines through completion of undergraduate or graduate degrees to support their entry into the scientific and technical workforce; and
  • Encouraging institutions to collaborate with teacher preparation programs that improve the quality and diversity of STEM teachers.

Ms. Patrick serves as the manager for MUREP at NASA Headquarters in the Office of Education. The MUREP team at NASA is responsible for developing agency-wide policies, procedures, and guidelines that enhance the involvement of all minority-serving education institutions in NASA’s mission through MUREP-related activities.

NASA Funding Opportunities for HBCUs

The following list provides information about organizations and entities within NASA that provide funding or services for which HBCUs and MSIs are eligible to apply. Some programs target HBCUs, while some are available to all institutions of higher education.

  • NASA National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant)
  • Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP)
  • Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)
  • STEM Education and Accountability Projects (SEAP)
  • NASA Mission Directorates
  • NASA Internships, Fellowships and Scholarships
  • NASA Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)
  • NASA Office of Small Business Programs Mentor/Protégée Program
  • NASA Education Offices

Space Grant

The NASA National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant) supports competitive grants to 52 consortia in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Space Grant supports and enhances science and engineering education and research efforts by leveraging the resource capabilities and technologies of over 900 affiliates from universities, colleges, industry, museums, science centers, and state and local agencies. Training grants with each consortium align their work with the nation’s STEM education priorities and the annual performance goals of the agency.

Space Grant enables NASA to provide opportunities for students to gain research and hands-on engineering experience on a variety of authentic flight platforms, including high-altitude balloons, sounding rockets, aircraft, and space satellites. Space Grant leverages agency investments in STEM education through collaborations with other NASA projects, including those conducted by NASA Mission Directorates, NASA Centers, and facilities. Space Grant also supports student participants in internship experiences at NASA Centers and facilities.

NASA Office of Education solicits proposals for Space Grant. Each funded proposal is expected to increase the understanding, assessment, development, and use of space and aeronautics resources. The program promotes partnerships and cooperation among universities, federal, state, and local governments, and aerospace industries to encourage and facilitate the application of university resources to aerospace and related fields.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP)

The Office of Education strives to ensure that underrepresented and underserved students participate in NASA education and research projects to help these students pursue STEM careers. The MUREP investments enhance the research, academic, and technology capabilities of MSIs through multi-year awards. Awards assist faculty and students in research and provide authentic STEM engagement related to NASA missions. In addition, the Office of Education encourages these institutions to collaborate with teacher preparation programs that improve the quality and diversity of STEM teachers.

Through MUREP, NASA provides financial assistance via competitive awards to HBCUs, Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), American Indian and Alaskan Native Serving Institutions (AIANSIs), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) and eligible community colleges, as reflected by the five MSI focused Executive Orders. These institutions recruit and retain underrepresented and underserved students, including women and girls, and persons with disabilities, into STEM fields.

NASA projects and research focuses on increasing the number of learners who complete their studies at all education levels and encourages students to earn advanced degrees in STEM fields that are critical to NASA and the Nation. MUREP investments assist NASA in meeting the goal of a diverse workforce through student participation in internships, fellowships, and scholarships at NASA Centers and JPL.

Projects at HBUCs that have been funded through MUREP include: Delaware State University; Elizabeth City State University; Hampton University; Howard University; Langston University; Morgan State University; Tennessee State University; University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas; and Xavier University.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)

EPSCoR provides competitive grants that establish partnerships among government, higher education, and industry, and promotes lasting improvements in the research and development capacity of an eligible state or region. The intent is to improve a jurisdiction’s research infrastructure, which has the potential to contribute to its research and development competitiveness and economy. EPSCoR supports academic research projects to establish long-term, self-sustaining, and nationally competitive activities in jurisdictions with modest research infrastructure, so they can become more competitive in attracting non-EPSCoR funding. EPSCoR funds jurisdictions that have not historically participated competitively in federal aerospace-related research grants and contracts. EPSCoR also provides research and technology development opportunities for faculty and research teams. NASA actively seeks to integrate the research conducted by EPSCoR jurisdictions with the scientific and technical priorities pursued by the agency. EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Development awards are $125,000 per year for three years. EPSCoR Research Awards are up to $750,000 for a three-year performance period.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

STEM Education and Accountability Projects (SEAP)

STEM Education and Accountability Projects (SEAP) fund competitive grants cooperative agreements to formal and informal education institutions, such as science museums. In addition, SEAP funds contribute to professional development activities at NASA Centers and facilities, including internships, fellowships, and scholarships for high school and college students, K-12 educators, and higher education faculty.

SEAP also connects NASA’s partners, including youth-serving organizations, higher education institutions, minority serving institutions, community colleges, NASA Visitor Centers, museums, and planetaria to the broad scientific discoveries, aeronautics research, and exploration missions of the agency.

SEAP investments reflect the following portfolio priorities: focus on NASA-unique STEM engagement experiences and activities; represent all NASA mission directorates; engage with underserved and underrepresented communities/institutions; and support key NASA infrastructure components to enable portfolio coordination approaches.

Below is a partial list of SEAP’s competitively selected activities aligned to the Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan

  1. STEM Engagement: The selected priorities for STEM Engagement contribute to the Federal Priority Investment Area: Increase and Sustain Youth and Public Engagement in STEM.
  2. NASA Internships, Fellowships, and Scholarships: The selected priorities for NASA Internships Fellowships, and Scholarships contribute to three of the Federal Priority Investment Areas: Enhance STEM Experience of Undergraduate Students; Better Serve Groups Historically Underrepresented in STEM Fields; and Design Graduate Education for Tomorrow’s STEM Workforce.
  3. Institutional Engagement: The selected priority for Institutional Engagement contributes to two of the Federal Priority Investment Areas: Increase and Sustain Youth and Public Engagement in STEM; and Improve STEM Instruction.
  4. Educator Professional Development: The selected priorities for Educator Professional Development contribute to the Federal Priority Investment Area: Improve STEM Instruction.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

NASA Mission Directorates

The Mission Directorates of Aeronautics Research (ARMD), Human Exploration and Operations (HEOMD), Science (SMD), and Space Technology (STMD), as well as other headquarters organizations, are encouraged to integrate education components into their research and development programs and flight missions to stimulate meaningful strategic partnerships between NASA and the education community. The Mission Directorates may provide discipline-specific content and/or human resources toward selected educational projects with the primary objective of stimulating innovation in a manner that has potential to advance NASA’s mission through the collaboration with educational institutions and students. Additionally, Mission Directorates and other headquarters organizations may develop educational partnerships and collaborations specific to their disciplines and needs, including discipline-specific interactions with other federal agencies. Each Mission Directorate identifies an Education Lead, who works for the Mission Directorate and represents its Associate Administrator to the Office of Education and serves on the Education Coordinating Council (ECC) with the authority to commit resources. Education Leads are responsible for coordinating with the Office of Education and the Centers/JPL, facilitating evaluation of proposed activities using ECC-approved criteria, and facilitating data submission to the agency education data collection system.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

NASA Internships, Fellowships and Scholarships

NASA Internships, Fellowships, and Scholarships (NIFS) leverage NASA’s unique missions and programs to enhance and increase the capability, diversity, and size of the Nation’s future STEM workforce. NASA continues to invest in the nation’s STEM learners by providing opportunities that will launch a new era of learning, innovation, and achievement. NASA Internships are competitive awards to support educational work opportunities that provide unique NASA-related experiences for educators and high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. These opportunities engage students with real-world experiences while contributing to the operation of a NASA facility or the advancement of NASA’s missions.

NASA Fellowships are designed to support independently conceived or designed research, or senior design projects by highly qualified faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students, in disciplines needed to help advance NASA’s missions, thus affording them the opportunity to directly contribute to advancements in STEM-related areas of study. Our fellowship opportunities are focused on innovation and generate measurable research results that contribute to NASA’s current and future science and technology goals.

NASA Scholarships provide financial support to undergraduate and graduate students for studies in STEM disciplines to inspire and support the next generation of STEM professionals.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

One Stop Shopping Initiatives

OSSI is a NASA-wide system for the recruitment, application, selection and career development of undergraduate and graduate students primarily in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Opportunities for students in other disciplines are available. OSSI allows students to apply for NASA Internships, Fellowships and Scholarships.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

NASA Student Ambassador Virtual Community

The NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community (NSAVC) is an online community network designed to foster greater interaction and mentorship among outstanding interns of NASA’s higher education projects. The goal is to provide participants with access to tools needed to serve as a NASA Student Ambassador, increase retention throughout the NASA educational pipeline into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce, and provide strategic communication opportunities.

Becoming a member of the NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community (NSAVC) has many benefits for current and former student interns at NASA. There are numerous resources available at your fingertips and you will become a part of a growing community of NASA Student Ambassadors’ Cohorts. NSAVC participants will enjoy the latest NASA news, science and technology updates, blogs, announcements, and forums. Additionally, Student Ambassadors have access to member profiles, networking opportunities, and links to Agency mission-related communications research and career resources.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

Pathways Programs at NASA

The NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program (IEP) is for current students and individuals accepted for enrollment in a qualifying educational program. The NASA Pathways IEP provides students enrolled in a variety of educational institutions with paid opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while still in school. This program exposes students to jobs in the Federal civil service by providing meaningful development work at the beginning of their career, before their career paths are fully established.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

NASA Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)

The NASA SBIR and STTR programs fund the research, development, and demonstration of innovative technologies that fulfill NASA needs as described in the annual Solicitations and have significant potential for successful commercialization. If you are a small business concern (SBC) with 500 or fewer employees or a non-profit RI such as a university or a research laboratory with ties to an SBC, then NASA encourages you to learn more about the SBIR and STTR programs as a potential source of seed funding for the development of your innovations.  The SBIR and STTR programs have 3 phases:

  • Phase I is the opportunity to establish the scientific, technical, commercial merit and feasibility of the proposed innovation, and the quality of the SBC’s performance.

Phase I work and results should provide a sound basis for the continued development, demonstration and delivery of the proposed innovation in Phase II and follow-on efforts. Successful completion of Phase I objectives is a prerequisite to consideration for a Phase II award.

The SBIR Phase I contracts last for 6 months and STTR Phase I contracts last for 12 months, both with a maximum funding of $125,000.

  • Phase II is focused on the development, demonstration and delivery of the innovation. Only SBCs awarded a Phase I contract are eligible to submit a proposal for a Phase II funding agreement. Phase II projects are chosen as a result of competitive evaluations and based on selection criteria provided in the Solicitation.

Phase II contracts last for 24 months with a maximum funding of $750,000.

  • Phase III is the commercialization of innovative technologies, products, and services resulting from either a Phase I or Phase II contract. Phase III contracts are funded from sources other than the SBIR and STTR programs.

Interesting in applying? Visit:

NASA Office of Small Business Programs Mentor/Protégé Program

The NASA Mentor-Protégé Program encourages NASA prime contractors to assist eligible protégés, thereby enhancing the protégés’ capabilities to perform on NASA contracts and subcontracts, fostering the establishment of long-term business relationships between these entities and NASA prime contractors, and increasing the overall number of these entities that receive NASA contract and subcontract awards


To participate as a protégé, an entity must meet one of the eligibility requirements as defined in NFS 1819.72 and must maintain that status for the life of the agreement. If the protégé self-certifies that it meets the eligibility requirements, a separate written self-certification of its small business status must be provided with the MPA. (Note: If protégé eligibility expires prior to the end of the agreement period, the agreement may still be approved for the remaining duration of the POP but must include the condition that any credit received is subject to the protégé’s recertification.)

A protégé may not participate in the NASA MPP more than twice. In addition, a protégé may have only one NASA mentor at any given time. In accordance with NFS 1819.72, the following entities are eligible to be chosen as protégés:

  1. Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs)
  2. Woman-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs)
  3. Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) concerns
  4. Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs)
  5. Service-Disabled Veteran–Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs)
  6. Historically Black College or University (HBCUs)
  7. Minority Servicing Institutions (MSIs)
  8. Small businesses with an active NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II contract
  9. Companies participating in the AbilityOne program

Interesting in applying? Visit:


  • Ames Research Center
  • Armstrong Flight Research Center
  • Glenn Research Center
  • Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Johnson Space Center
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • Langley Research Center
  • Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Stennis Space Center

Please visit for more information about the above education centers.


Today, HBCUs have opportunities to collaborate with NASA to enhance their research, academic, and technological capabilities, as well as provide their students with scholarships, fellowships, internships and authentic hands-on research and engineering challenges. The information contained in this report is designed to give HBCUs an overview of the specific programs within NASA that could benefit their institutions. From this information, HBCUs should further assess the opportunities through NASA program websites, establish a relationship with the program officers, and establish a plan to apply.

For more than half of a century, NASA has been an essential aspect of our national pride and identity. During President Obama’s Final State of the Union Address, he stated “60 years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.” Therefore, broadening the participation of HBCUs in NASA programs does more than connect schools to valuable resources. Meaningful partnerships between HBCUs and NASA keep HBCUs well-positioned to be in the epicenter our national priority to lead the world in space exploration.

Additional Links

  1. NASA Higher Education Contacts:
  2. NASA Education:
  3. NASA Jobs:
  4. Current Opportunities:
  5. Sign up for updates from NASA and STEM associates about workshops, internships, and fellowships; applications for grants or collaborations; promotions for student and educator opportunities; online professional development; and other announcements. NASA education EXPRESS:

La’Shanda Holmes is a special assistant to the administrator of NASA. She is a 2015-2016 White House Fellow placed at NASA for the year. She is also an active duty Coast Guard pilot and graduate of Spelman College.

Danielle Wood is a special assistant to the deputy administrator of NASA. Prior to this role, she worked a systems engineer with the Aerospace Corporation and as a researcher with Johns Hopkins University. She earned her doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she studied aerospace engineering, technology policy and international development.

Ivory A. Toldson is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He is currently on leave from his position as associate professor at Howard University.

Ajiah Graham Celebrates #CSEdWeek

2015 HBCU All-Star

Celebrating #CSEdWeek

Why did you decide to major in Computer Science?

Ajiah Graham
Ajiah Graham
J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College
Sophomore, Computer Science

I decided to major in Computer Science because it is a continuous and evolving career area that has and will continue to impact our daily lives. This field ranges from programming to computer maintenance. Computing is a part of everything we do and aide in making some activities in our lives better. This field of study is known to help solve challenging problems in the world. I chose to major in computer science because of rewarding careers it has to offer. These jobs are here to stay regardless of the location. Although there are plenty of job opportunities in Computer Science, studies have shown the lack of minorities in this particular STEM field. This has inspired me to increase the number of minorities in Computer Science.

What do you plan to do with your computer science major in the future?

I enjoy Computer Science because there are opportunities to work in a team or as the individual. I plan to work as a software engineer, and eventually become an entrepreneur and open up a computer programming company to develop software that enhances the teaching and learning of STEM in the minority population. I would also like to develop various software for upcoming and newly developed companies that need new systems built to cater to their specific needs. Also, I not only want to become an entrepreneur myself, but I would like to inspire others to become entrepreneurs as well.

Ajiah Graham is a 2015 HBCU All-Star from J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College. She is a sophomore and computer science major.

Sidney Smith Celebrates #CSEdWeek

2015 HBCU All-Star

Celebrating #CSEdWeek

Why did you decide to major in Computer Science?

Sidney Smith

Sidney Smith
University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff
Senior, Computer Science

I will never forget registration day for college. I sat with my counselor and she asked what I would like to major in. I was unsure and told her “general studies.” She said that would be a bad idea and I should pick something. I came up with Information Technology (IT). She stated our school’s “IT” was for “INDUSTRIAL Technology,” and the only field of study pertaining to computers was Computer Science. I figured I would give it a try. My first semester I was enrolled in Computer Science I. The first time I coded, executed, and saw my work run perfectly was a spark that lit the fire. I am now one semester away from graduating with honors in Computer Science and Mathematics.


What do you plan to do with your computer science major in the future?

Oddly enough I am becoming very passionate about agriculture and growing my own food. On the surface it would seem having a background in CS is totally irrelevant. Luckily for me computers are used in every field in these technological times. I am in the process of interviewing with a prominent, world-wide technological company as a Software Engineer. This is one of the highest paid occupations to date. I have also become quite found of Data Analytics and Database Administration. These two practices will assist in the agriculture venture. I am also able to establish networks and design websites either professionally or as a lucrative side hustle.

Sidney Smith is a 2015 HBCU All-Star from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.  He is a senior and computer science major.

Andronica Klaas

2015 HBCU  All-Star

Celebrating #CSEDWeek

 Why did you decide to major in Computer Science?

Andronica Klaas

Andronica Klaas
Johnson C. Smith University
Junior, Computer Science

Even though I will be the first of my siblings to graduate college, my major was influenced greatly by my engineering and tech related background; my older sister is a self-taught electrician, my older brother is a self-taught computer genie and my little sister is an absolute science junkie. Growing up around a love for STEM challenged me to find my niche and I eventually grew to realize that my brother and I both shared a love for computers. Along with this experience, I spent 3 years in high school taking Information Technology as one of my major subjects and absolutely loved it – it was challenging yet fun and I later grew a passion for the field. Upon my arrival in college I decided to pursue computer science because through the above-mentioned experiences I had learned that I have a passion for this field. I later grew to find more benefits of being in computer science that have influenced me to continue pursuing the field, benefits such as; the opportunity of working in a wide range of industries, serving as a mentor to young black female aspiring computer scientists, joining a fast growing industry, having more job prospects and earning a higher salary upon graduation in comparison to my peers.


What do you plan to do with your computer science major in the future?


In the near future, specifically upon graduation, I plan on attending graduate school and advancing my computer science degree to an MBA in Information Systems and eventually advancing it to a PhD in Computer Science and Information Systems. I plan to continue obtaining the necessary knowledge and skills in my field, until I reach a point at which I can devise ways through which to bridge the digital divide. I plan on working with third world countries, especially South Africa, to bridge the divide by sharing the knowledge and skills obtained throughout my years of schooling and training.

Andronica Klaas is a 2015 HBCU All-Star attending Johnson C. Smith University.  She is a junior studying computer science.