White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Partners with NASA to Foster Innovation and Opportunity for HBCU Scholars

by Arthur McMahan, Senior Associate Director for the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities

In 2021, Janine Jackson, an HBCU Scholar from Morgan State University, participated in the Mini Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovation Tech Transfer Idea Competition (MITTIC), part of the HBCU Scholar Recognition Program run by the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Initiative). “The Mini-MITTIC experience was intense, competitive and rewarding,” Janine shared with me. “I am grateful to the Initiative staff and friendly folks at NASA for bringing us all together literally across space and time zones to work together on this experience. I thoroughly enjoyed brainstorming with my team to come up with a product and a pitch. The experience confirmed that diverse perspectives are useful and meaningful when we take time to listen to one other. It also verified how well HBCU students collaborate and create when we link up.”

We, at the Initiative, are excited for more students to have experiences like Janine Jackson’s, which is why we’re formalizing a partnership with NASA to foster innovation and hands-on experiences for HBCU Scholars. Since the inception of the Initiative’s student programming in 2014, NASA has been at the forefront of engaging with cohorts of HBCU Scholars and providing access to NASA networks, trainings, resources, and partners. Now, as we deepen our relationship with NASA, our Scholars will have the opportunity to work closely with NASA throughout the duration of the program, expanding upon a previous one-time event per cohort.

The partnership will officially make the MITTIC program part of the Initiative’s HBCU Scholar Recognition Program, starting with this year’s cohort of student Scholars. The program will support students in developing ideas to commercialize technology derived from NASA Intellectual Property. Scholars will have the opportunity to present their team pitches during the National HBCU Week Conference each September.

Our relationship with NASA exemplifies the Biden-Harris Administration’s and the Initiative’s commitment to enhancing STEM at HBCUs. This opportunity provides our outstanding HBCU Scholars with the tools and experiences needed to succeed in the 21st Century economy and beyond.

My colleague and counterpart at NASA, Torry Johnson, is thrilled to get started with a new group of HBCU scholars with our upcoming application season this month. As she told me, “Since 2018, MITTIC has provided students at Minority Serving Institutions a glimpse into NASA’s Technology Transfer Program and a unique opportunity to explore their entrepreneurial interests using NASA’s technology portfolio. NASA is excited to formalize our participation in the White House Initiative’s HBCU Scholar Recognition Program with the Mini MITTIC program. “