The presidents of eight historically black colleges in South Carolina and one HBCU in Georgia located in the Central Savannah River Area are agreeing on making a commitment to diversity by supplying graduates that will become members of the scientific workforce. The presidents of the nine HBCUs signed a memorandum of understanding during a Thursday morning event at Allen University in Columbia. The agreement is driven by a $9 million stimulus funds grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Project for Environmental Management in association with the U.S. Department of Energy.
The other eight participating schools are Benedict, Claflin, Clinton Junior College, Denmark Technical College, Morris, South Carolina State University, Voorhees, and Paine College in Augusta, Georgia.
Sixth District Congressman James Clyburn called the grant an investment in the future and a symbol of a vote of confidence in the participating HBCUs. “This is a down payment. This is a foundation for us to build upon. We’re going to have to demonstrate with this that we can go to the next levels with all of this, because each one of these institutions will be participating.”
Clyburn pointed out that the grant money is not earmarked to be divided equally among the participating institutions. Allocations to each school will be based on the efforts in developing the programs that will produce the graduates needed for a scientific work force looking for an infusion of young minds. “It all depends upon the scope that you developed –that you developed going forward, as to what part of that 9-million is going to be allocated to you. If your scope is a $200,000 scope that’s all you’re going to expect. If you’ve got a $1.8 million dollar scope, then you can expect that.”
Savannah River site operations manager Jeff Allison says the grant comes at an opportune time with the new construction underway at the Savannah River Site and other nuclear sites in South Carolina.
Allison says many of the workers in the field are in their fifties and others are reaching retirement age, so the influx of new blood in the scientific workforce is sorely needed. “We see new nuclear construction going on in Georgia and South Carolina. There’s a lot of work there. We’re going to need chemists, we’re going to need engineers, we’re going to need accountants, we’re going to need history majors, we’re going to need the whole gamut–because when I look at Savannah River Site that’s what we have. We have people that write procedures, we have people that turn valves, we have people in leadership positions.”
Allen University President Dr. Charles Young saluted Congressman Clyburn for his help in providing support for HBCUs in South Carolina. Young recalled when he took the job at Allen in 2004 he solicited support from Clyburn. At that time Allen had 300 students with only one student majoring in Mathematics and only three majoring in Biology.
Young says with assitance from Clyburn, times have certainly changed at the school. “Because of his leadership, because of his commitment to higher education for our students. This building, which we now enjoy, is open and is standing. But most importantly, we have moved from having one math student and three biology students to nearly 200 students in math and science alone.”
Allen now has over 500 students.