Opportunity Outreach: Naval Workshop Celebrates Talent At Hbcu/Mis

US Navy | Oct. 4, 2023

By DoD News

For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of the Navy’s (DoN) Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) Program sponsored its annual Naval Opportunity Awareness Workshop (OAW) in person.

This year’s event recently was held at Florida International University in Miami.

“HBCU/MIs represent a critical element in the developing of future leaders in the naval science and technology workforce,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Kurt Rothenhaus, who gave the workshop’s opening remarks. “To maintain our technological edge for the Sailors and Marines we have the privilege of serving, we need the very best from around the nation to forge the future and be the next generation of scientists, engineers, technicians and other professions.”

HBCU/MIs collectively enroll over 5 million students and provide critical college access to those who often come from traditionally underserved communities and are the first in their family to attend an institution of higher learning. Not surprisingly, HBCU/MIs have become top producers of diverse talent, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields.

That’s a talent source the DoN HBCU/MI Program, which is located at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), wants to reach. One way it does so is through the Naval OAW.

The Naval OAW is aimed at university and college presidents, vice presidents, provosts, faculty, staff and students from HBCU/MIs. It highlights research opportunities within the Navy and Marine Corps, summer faculty/sabbatical research opportunities and student internships.

It also provides a critical platform for direct engagement between the DoN and key stakeholders, potential grantees and future partners. The Naval OAW serves as a recruitment tool to get more HBCU/MI faculty involved in naval-relevant scientific research — and attract students to internships.

This year’s event featured a variety of discussion panels, including one consisting of ONR program officers, program managers and senior leaders who spoke about research areas of interest to the command, discussed the best ways to reach program officers, and provided tips for submitting successful funding proposals to the DoN and other Department of Defense agencies.

The ONR panel included:

  • Alexandra Landsberg, Naval STEM Coordination Office executive and division director, Command, Control, Computing, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting Department
  • Robert Sparrock, program officer, Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department
  • Dr. Thomas Fu, head, Sea Warfare and Weapons Department
  • Dr. Patrick Mason, head, Warfighter Performance Department
  • Cmdr. Osazonamen Igbinosun, military deputy, Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department

Dr. Jennifer Wolk, a program officer in ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, moderated the panel.

“This year’s Naval OAW was a resounding success,” said Anthony C. Smith Sr., director of the DoN HBCU/MI Program. “Given this was our first in-person event post-COVID, I was extremely pleased with the attendance and watching the engagements was inspiring.

“The ONR panel, in particular, was very well received,” he continued. “The questions and inquiries by the attendees made for an exciting, informative exchange with the panelists.”

The DoN HBCU/MI Program has three main goals:

1. Expand opportunities for schools to successfully compete for grants and contracts in basic and applied research.

2. Offer fellowships to faculty and internships to students pursuing degrees in STEM studies.

3. Promote greater student interest in STEM degrees at HBCU/MIs.

Learn more about the DoN HBCU/MI Program at https://www.nre.navy.mil/education-outreach/hbcu-mi-historically-black-colleges.