July 18, 2024
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Binghamton University and six HBCUs forge New Educational and Research Alliance

In collaboration with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, newERA will foster collaborations in education, research and service

N. Joyce Payne, founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, gets a tour of the Center of Excellence Data Center led by Research Assistant Professor Srikanth Rangarajan as part of the Emerging Technology and Broadening Participation Summit. N. Joyce Payne, founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, gets a tour of the Center of Excellence Data Center led by Research Assistant Professor Srikanth Rangarajan as part of the Emerging Technology and Broadening Participation Summit.
N. Joyce Payne, founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, gets a tour of the Center of Excellence Data Center led by Research Assistant Professor Srikanth Rangarajan as part of the Emerging Technology and Broadening Participation Summit. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

In collaboration with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Binghamton University has announced a New Educational and Research Alliance (newERA) with six historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs): Alabama A&M University, Central State University, Tuskegee University, Prairie-View A&M University, the University of the District of Columbia and Virginia State University.

The groundbreaking partnership is built on the shared missions of education, research and service, aiming to foster holistic, equitable and sustainable collaborations that will shape the future of academia and beyond.

The strategic alliances formed through this partnership will serve as a catalyst for research collaborations among faculty and students across the participating institutions. By pooling resources, knowledge and expertise, the universities will embark on joint initiatives that tackle pressing societal challenges. The focus areas of research will include artificial intelligence (AI), data science, cybersecurity, materials, biomedical engineering, smart energy, future manufacturing, healthcare and agriculture.

The partnership also will further support HBCUs in their pursuit of a high research Carnegie classification. By leveraging the strengths and expertise of all involved institutions, the alliance will provide the additional resources and guidance to elevate the research profiles of HBCUs. This endeavor reflects a shared commitment to promoting academic excellence and empowering HBCUs to become recognized leaders in research and innovation.

“Binghamton has a reputation of being a great research university, and some of our HBCUs are on the verge of becoming great in some areas,” said N. Joyce Payne, founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “This was a prime opportunity to bring the two communities together to start the conversation.”

Plans for newERA emerged from a three-day conference called the Emerging Technology and Broadening Participation Summit held June 5-7 at Binghamton University and organized by Binghamton’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science. More than a dozen faculty members and students from the six HBCUs toured the college’s laboratories, met in research affinity groups with Watson faculty to discuss collaborations, and heard from speakers such as Tuskegee University Associate Professor Michael Curry, Binghamton University Distinguished Professor M. Stanley Whittingham (winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry) and Visions Federal Credit Union President and CEO Tyrone Muse.

“After a full year of brainstorming and planning with Dr. Payne and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, I am very happy to see this come to fruition. It is a groundbreaking alliance,” said Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Hall. “In the SUNY system, we’ve never had an outreach effort like this, so Binghamton is leading the way. We are approaching this in the sense of true collaboration — we’re equal partners in this, each bringing our own strengths and our own weaknesses, our own needs and our own aspirations. I think that bodes well for the future.”

One key objective is to nurture a diverse talent pipeline of graduate students interested in pursuing careers in engineering and computer science. By offering mentorship, joint course development and summer internships, the alliance will provide opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds. This approach aims to address the existing disparities in these fields and ensure that talented individuals have the support and resources needed to excel in academia or industry.

In addition to student-focused initiatives, the partnership will strengthen the research infrastructures of the participating HBCUs. By providing access to shared lab resources, state-of-the-art equipment and advanced facilities, the universities will empower researchers to conduct cutting-edge investigations. This collaboration will not only enhance the research capabilities of the HBCUs but also foster an environment of knowledge sharing and collaboration that benefits all partner institutions.

Visiting and sabbatical appointments of Binghamton University and the HBCU faculty members will further enrich the partnership. Through these exchange programs, faculty members will have the opportunity to engage with their counterparts, fostering cross-pollination of ideas, sharing of best practices, joint pursuit of sponsored research opportunities and establishment of long-lasting professional relationships. This collaboration will stimulate intellectual growth, foster innovation and contribute to the academic enrichment of all partner universities.

“Our role in higher education is to transform the lives of our students but also to think about ways that we can contribute to the success of our colleagues and students,” said Binghamton University Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Karen A. Jones. “We want to build a concrete action plan so we’re not going to just check a box and say that we’re done. This alliance is going to have a life of its own, and it’s going to run. I’m really excited about the next steps.”

As the partnership unfolds, it will undoubtedly lead to new avenues for groundbreaking research and nurture the next generation of diverse talent. The combined efforts of these institutions will not only shape the future of academia but also address the challenges faced by our society.

“The Thurgood Marshall College Fund represents 47 universities in 22 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands,” Payne said. “If we can make this model work between Binghamton and our HBCUs and Thurgood Marshall, then we can replicate it for the other 41 universities.”