NSF awards $6 million to help minority schools prepare for advanced computer networks

October 27, 1999

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced today it has awarded almost $6 million over four years to help institutions of higher learning that traditionally serve minority communities prepare for the next generation of information technology and computer networks. The grant will be administered by EDUCAUSE, a non-profit association whose mission is to transform education through information technologies.

"I am delighted that the National Science Foundation is reaching out to minority-serving institutions in support of the Administration's Next Generation Internet initiative," said Vice President Al Gore. "The Next Generation Internet will revolutionize research and education, and it is critical that minority-serving institutions be at the cutting edge of information technology. This is particularly important because minorities are under-represented in the information technology industry -- an industry with wages that are 80 percent above the private sector average."

Under the new program, traditionally African-American, Hispanic, and Tribal colleges and universities will develop the infrastructure and skills needed to take advantage of advanced Internet capabilities, including the Next Generation Internet. A significant barrier for many institutions has been the development of institutional technical and financial strategies and training of technical support staff. Activities under this award will engage individuals at all levels of the institutions in attacking those problems.

"The country vitally needs the talents of the groups underrepresented in the computing field," said NSF Director Rita Colwell. "What does it say about the future, when the transformation in communications and computing -- the very cutting-edge of science -- has not yet swept major sectors of our population into the excitement? Clearly we need to change that, and this award will help make it happen."

The program will allow educators and students to integrate access to research results, databases, supercomputer centers and scientific virtual reality tools into their instruction. Research faculty, through better awareness of and access to computer networks, may be able to increase their competitiveness for research grants and enhance their teaching strategies. Technical staffs will be better prepared to support and maintain the technology on a long-term basis. Also, the institutions' administrators will be better prepared for planning future information technology needs.

Regional and on-campus workshops and training programs, prototype or experimental network connections, and establishment of regional network support centers are among the tools that will be used to achieve the program's objectives. Faculty and students will have the opportunity to use the most advanced computing resources being developed and prototyped under NSF's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program. Training, workshops, and advanced technical and applications consulting will be handled through a partnership between EDUCAUSE and the education, outreach and training component of PACI.

Brian L. Hawkins, president of EDUCAUSE, noted that his organization worked closely with minority-serving institutions to determine what kind of support was needed to ready them for use of future information technology.

"EDUCAUSE has been centrally involved in the networking of higher education from the beginning," he said. "We are delighted to be able to work with NSF and the minority-serving institutions in this critical effort to extend the benefits of advanced networking and computing throughout the community."
Statements from participating institutions

"The American Indian Higher Education Consortium is interested in attaining sufficient networking capability to enable all its tribal colleges to provide and receive distance learning courses and to participate in scientific research projects. This award will help strengthen Native American educational, scientific and economic development programs."
Tom Davis, President of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, and spokesperson for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium

"This is an excellent opportunity for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), EDUCAUSE, and Education, Outreach and Training -- Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure to work together to enhance HACU campus networks and wide area connectivity, as well as the research and educational use of the connections. We're very pleased to participate."
Dr. Antonio Flores, President of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities

"The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education's 118 member campuses view this award as a strong assist in promoting even more effectively our goal of 'keeping the doors of opportunity open' for our students and faculty."
Dr. Henry Ponder, CEO and President of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
Editors: Please contact Amber Jones, 703-306-1070 for a copy of Rita Colwell's remarks at the EDUCAUSE Annual Meeting held on October 28, 1999.

Media contact:
Amber Jones

Program contact:
William Decker

National Science Foundation

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