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  • Writer's pictureRobert Louis Shepard, PhD

Leading Historical Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) into 21st Century

With the support of the world-renowned Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), I combined my love for entrepreneurship, my experience, and my national and international exposure to establish and move Science and Engineering Alliance, Inc. (known as SEA) from a concept to a Delaware 501(c)(3) non-profit education and research organization.

Under my leadership and efforts of a small but dedicated staff from our office on K Street in Washington, DC, SEA worked for nearly a quarter of a century to provide support to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other small underutilized institutions, mentoring them on research infrastructure enhancement. Through SEA, I became a chief negotiator for increasing the participation of HBCUs in the federal government’s multi-billion dollars-a-year research enterprise.

When I found the words below that were spoken to the nation by President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt during his second inaugural address in 1937, I was even more determined to be a strong voice for the HBCU research community:

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

Afterwards, my presentations to federal and non-federal audiences all opened with President Roosevelt's statement.

When we closed down the organization in 2013, according to data from the National Science Foundation (NSF)/Survey of Federal Support (SRS) to Universities, Colleges and Nonprofit Institutions, from 1990 to 2009 the cumulative combined Federal R&D to the four SEA institutions has totaled $1,011,446,000.  In 2009 one of the SEA schools, Jackson State University, ranked second behind Howard University in federal research and development (R&D) to HBCUs and all SEA institutions sometimes ranked in the top 5 and always in the top 10 of HBCUs receiving federal R&D. 

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