HBCU Computer Science Faculty Importance

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Introduction

Grant revenue and different groups’ participation in research have been a matter of extensive investigation for decades. Although it may seem that HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) are already outdated institutions that served their purpose and have to cease to exist, such assumptions are far from being relevant in contemporary American society. African American students, as well as representatives of other minority groups, obtain their higher education in such facilities. Grants play an important role in the HBCUs’ viability as this financial aid is allocated to research, programs, and various services (Toldson, 2016). Institutions become less dependent on tuition funds, which can lead to the provision of services to a larger audience. The disparity in grant revenue of HBCUs, especially when it comes to STEM departments, and other educational establishments is regarded as one of the reasons behind the low rate of Black researchers. However, other factors have an influence on the participation of African Americans in the STEM field.

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Existing Disparities in Grant Revenue

Minority Groups’ Limited Access to Resources

One of the topical issues that have gained much attention of scholars is the disparity in grant revenue. Researchers explore the differences in funding of HBCUs and traditionally white institutions (also referred to as TWIs) in terms of specific establishments, regions, populations, departments, and disciplines (Toldson, 2016; Bracey, 2017). The primary focus is on different disciplines and programs developed to address the existing issues. Investigators also try to identify the reasons behind the existing gap and create effective strategies to address the problem (Kelchen & Stedrak, 2016; Hemming et al., 2019). This research has unveiled numerous facets of the issue, which is the foundation for the development of approaches to decrease the gap between grant revenue of HBCUs and TWIs. Diverse internal and external factors have been identified and analyzed, but there is a consensus that a combination of these influences results in the underprivileged status of HBCUs.

Educational establishments receive financial aid from federal, state, and local budgets, but the resources are allocated disproportionately. Toldson (2016) stresses that TWIs obtained more grant revenues than all four-year HBCUs combined in 2014. An illustration of this disparity is $1.6 billion received by John Hopkins University (a TWI) compared to $1.2 billion provided to 89 four-year HBCUs (Toldson, 2016). The current trend in the sphere of grant revenues is rather alarming as the increasing gap between TWIs and HBCU is apparent. It has been largely accepted that federal and state authorities providing grants are biased against HBCUs (Sprague, Wilson, & Cain, 2018; Favero & Rutherford, 2019; Pece, 2019). The level of investment in different institutions is an argument to support this claim.

HBCUs received a considerably smaller number of research grants as compared with other higher educational facilities. Federal financial support of TWIs increased by 2% and reached $32.4 billion, while the funding of HBCUs saw a considerable decrease of 17% and was $308 million in 2017 (Pece, 2019). The financial aid provided to HBCUs has been shrinking for three consecutive years. Federal funds provided to the research departments of TWIs grew to almost $30 billion (a 4% increase) while the support of similar HBCU departments was reduced by 9% in 2016 (Pece, 2019). This selective support has adverse effects on the development of the educational system of the USA. The exclusion of minority investigators from research results in limited diversity and innovation in different fields and sectors of the economy.

Various authorities implement projects to address the gap in funding, but these efforts remain unsuccessful. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) declares its commitment to improving the performance of minority institutions and provide funding opportunities to these facilities. Nevertheless, approximately 92% of research grant funds provided by the NIH were given to non-minority institutions and only up to %15 of funding was granted to minority institutions’ research projects (Guers, Gwathmey, Haddad, Vatner, & Vatner, 2017). It is noteworthy that the overall level of the financial support of this organization is similar for non-minority and minority educational establishments. However, research projects of HBCUs receive less financial aid as compared to TWI, which affects these educational establishments’ endowment level and overall performance (Coupet, 2016). It is clear that the potential of HBCU investigators is underestimated, and the major expected benefits are associated with TWIs.

Several reasons for the disparity in this sphere have been discussed in academia. Historically, the disproportionate distribution of funds allocated to educational establishments has occurred due to funding agencies’ selection bias (Toldson, 2016). Richardson (2018) suggests that historical underfunding of HBCUs has prevented these facilities from diversifying their students, offering them a wide range of relevant educational services or even the disappearance of some institutions. Although the persistent bias undermines the realization of their mission, HBCUs try to remain competitive and provide research opportunities to African Americans as well as other vulnerable populations (Bracey, 2017). At that, obtaining a degree from a HBCU is often a single opportunity for many African Americans and other underprivileged groups. The disparity in the sphere of funds allocation suggests that HBCUs are still important for the US educational system development even though segregation and other atrocities of racism seem to be behind the American society.

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Another reason is the prevalence of performance-based funding programs provided to higher education institutions, which is associated with many establishments’ limited access to resources and their inability to improve performance (Kelchen & Stedrak, 2016). Students at TWIs tend to have better equipment and more opportunities to find employment during and after their studies. Finally, the low capacity of HBCUs to fundraise is one of the influential factors contributing to the existing gap in funding (Hemming et al., 2019). Many higher-educational facilities do not use effectively the available opportunities, which makes them less competitive and successful in obtaining funds from different agencies. Organizational culture and the lack of properly trained faculty members and leaders contribute to HBCUs lagging behind in their attempts to receive more funding.

STEM and Funding

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have gained momentum in recent decades, and educational facilities try to develop the corresponding departments. It was estimated that STEM jobs would see considerable growth (17%) between 2008 and 2018 (Marks, Haynes, & Brown, 2016). At the same time, the financial support of research departments of many educational establishments is insufficient to cater to the growing demand for these professions. The lack of resources is specifically pronounced in HBCUs that have access to limited resources. These institutions have insufficient budgets to maintain the necessary equipment and high-profile professionals, which leads to their STEM departments underfunded and unable to ensure student retention.

It has been found that African Americans tend to gain degrees in areas other than STEM. For example, out of the Bachelor’s degrees obtained by Blacks, seven percent were granted in biological sciences, while six percent were awarded in mathematics, and only four percent were given in engineering (Gasman & Nguyen, 2014). African Americans’ low participation in STEM post-secondary education is associated with the insufficient representation of this population in the STEM area. For instance, six percent of scientists and engineers in 2006 were African Americans (Gasman & Nguyen, 2014). The bias against Black female members of faculty in STEM has been acknowledged (Moore, Pizzetta, Kupenda, & Leggette, 2018). This population remains vulnerable due to faculty members’ and female students’ prejudice, as well as various socioeconomic and cultural issues women have to face. According to Charleston, Gillbert, Escobar, and Jackson (2014), only 1.3% of the faculty of computing sciences departments receiving grants is represented by African Americans. These trends lead to a lack of diversity in the area.

Grantsmanship and Its Influence on Higher Education

The Definition of the Term

As mentioned above, minority groups are underrepresented in the STEM area, although a considerable effort is made to ensure equity and the participation of all groups. Hemming et al. (2019) focus on biomedical sciences and claim that African American investigators receive significantly smaller funds compared to their white peers and are less likely to reapply. The lack of motivation and disbelief in their ability to receive the grant have a negative impact on African American students’ retention. The researchers see grantsmanship as an opportunity to address the gap and ensure more active participation of Black investigators in research.

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Grantsmanship has become a part of scientific and research discourse comparatively recently. This term can be defined as “the art of writing research grant proposals” and researchers’ capability “to compel a reviewer to agree with the research goals and objectives and, in turn, desire to support the proposal” (Sauer & Gabbi, 2018, p. 22). Writing a proposal is associated with certain conventions and investigators’ ability to provide sufficient evidence regarding the relevance of their research. Some institutions include some elements of grantsmanship in their curricular, but many educational establishments fail to provide such services to their students and faculty members.

The Impact of Grantsmanship on Higher Education

Grantsmanship is a valuable opportunity for HBCUs to obtain more resources and become more competitive, which, in its turn, will lead to more substantial funding. Intensive professional training regarding the development of grant applications is often unavailable to investigators, which is more common for minority groups and HBCU students (Hemming et al., 2019). Toldson (2016) argues that many HBCUs invest considerable funds and achieve remarkable results training their faculty and students, which translates into successful fundraising. HBCUs also form alliances and create programs associated with grantsmanship and student retention in STEM (Okpodu & Maclin, 2016). Students, faculty, and alumni often collaborate to develop the necessary skills and obtain funds for various types of research. It is noteworthy that the collaboration with alumni is often seen as a valuable opportunity HBCUs tend to waste (Kelchen & Stedrak, 2016). Certain amounts of resources received for research are allocated to grantsmanship projects that are regarded as one of the premises for the development of educational establishments, as well as the entire system of the US higher education.

The promotion of grantsmanship in the sphere of STEM is also instrumental in creating a favorable environment for the development of HBCUs and achieving equity in the distribution of research funds. HBCU students’ retention in STEM (especially computer science) is one of the priorities educational establishments have to determine (Washington, Burge, Mejias, Jean-Pierre, & Knox, 2015). Grantsmanship is one of the most potent tools to achieve this goal as researchers will receive funding instead of investing time into projects that never receive grants. The availability of such opportunities facilitates faculty members’ and students’ motivation to continue their education and implement research.

Grantsmanship plays an important role in the development of American higher education. One of the positive effects grantsmanship has on the progress of the educational system is its motivational potential. Eisenhower (2018) argues that programs aimed at improving students’ and faculty’s skills in writing proposals and obtaining grants motivate investigators to be involved in research. Clearly, numerous projects aimed at enhancing institutions’ research capacity contribute to the advancement of sciences, which is critical for the educational system as well as the entire society (Bienen, Crespo, Keller, & Weinstein, 2018). Researchers manage to come up with innovative ideas and projects that contribute to the development of industries and diverse sectors of the economy.

The Role of HBCU Computer Science Faculty/Researchers in Developing Black Computer Science Talent

As mentioned above, many projects and programs have proved to have a positive impact on the advancement of Black computer science talent. HBCU faculty supports students and makes a considerable effort in student retention in computer sciences (Washington et al., 2015). The impact of the faculty is manifold and associated with various activities. For instance, researchers receive grants and involve their peers and students in various projects, which motivates all these stakeholders to remain in the sphere of computer science (Eisenhower, 2018). Investigators often serve as facilitators of the research process in their educational establishments as they negotiate with the administration and get funding or certain financial support (Washington et al., 2015). Success stories of individual researchers and the efficacy of certain projects encourage high-school students to enter the field and post-secondary and undergraduate student to continue pursuing their academic goals.

These efforts have led to a considerable increase in Black students obtaining Bachelor’s degrees (Gasman & Nguyen, 2014). This positive trend has been apparent for the past several years, although the pace at which the growth occurs is still rather modest. This interest in the field can be instrumental in improving Black investigators’ participation in computer science research and increasing the rate of Black researchers among US computer science scholars.

How Can HBCU Faculty Members Be Prepared to Compete Successfully for STEM Grants?

HBCUs have implemented various programs aimed at improving the participation of their students and faculty in research involving grant seeking. One of the primary strategies HBCUs employ has become grantsmanship. It is noteworthy that formal training aimed at increasing faculty’s skills related to writing proposals can be partially funded from facilities’ budgets or grants (Bhattacharya, Okunbor, Sarami, Gillespie, & Nickolov, 2019). These programs may be internal or offered to the faculty by faculty members (Toldson, 2016). Grantsmanship is often an element of HBCUs’ curriculum.

At the same time, the increasing number of programs involves the alliances and collaboration between HBCUs, as well as the cooperation with leading companies in the industry. Okpodu and Maclin (2016) note that alliances between HBCUs are becoming a common trend as educational establishments are involved in projects aimed at improving African American investigators’ competitiveness in research grants application. Such projects are usually based on the facilitation of interaction between faculty members of different facilities. Successful grant receivers share their experiences with grant seekers. Trainers pay specific attention to enhancing equity, which implies the provision of opportunities to Black female researchers.

Every grantsmanship and training provided to faculty has its peculiarities, although some components are similar. The common element of the training is the aspects of proposal writing discussed during the projects (Sauer & Gabbi, 2018). The areas that receive most attention include choosing the most appropriate solicitation type and application call, applying for the right grant, searching for the fund providers, and addressing the major review criteria. These areas are often the pitfalls preventing researchers from receiving grants, so investigators benefit from enriching their knowledge and obtaining skills in these domains.

The activities implemented to train HBCU faculty and students are diverse but are characterized by the focus on interaction and collaboration. Bienen et al. (2018) claim that the format of workshops is suitable for faculty development as people obtain skills, share knowledge, and build social links that are valuable in the academia, especially as far as minority researchers are involved. It is also emphasized that locating and recruiting reviewers are essential components of such projects defining their outcomes (Bienen et al., 2018). Other formats are also utilized and assist in attaining the established goals.

Mentorship is an important element of the training mentioned above, and some HBCUs benefit from utilizing this approach. Mentorship involves sharing experience, providing assistance and support (technical and emotional), supplying trainees with information regarding available resources and opportunities (Bienen et al., 2018). As an illustration of the effective use of mentorship, it is possible to mention the program Future Faculty/Research Scientist Mentoring (FFRM) program that was associated with a substantial increase of tenure track faculty hires in a HBCU (Charleston et al., 2014). The project was associated with the computer science field and improved the participation of Black tenure-track faculty by 11%. Charleston et al. (2014) emphasize that the program could become a national project that could enhance the competitiveness of African American researchers for STEM grants. Although mentorship is associated with additional costs, the method is acquiring popularity as it has a positive influence on HBCU faculty development.

Apart from formal training, informal training also contributes to the development of HBCU faculty. Shuman (2019) claims that the efficiency and proportion of formal education related to grantsmanship vary in terms of the disciplines. For example, the so-called hard sciences (including but not confined to biochemistry, neuroscience, animal science, and health professions) faculty are more prepared to research and more successful in applying for grants as compared to investigators involved in other fields. As a result, students receive high-quality formal training, and grantsmanship is a constituent part of this training. Informal education that often facilitates the process of grant attainment is associated with the so-called learn-as-you-go approach (Shuman, 2019). Researchers were learning while applying for a grant, which could involve the collaboration with peers, participation in workshops and meetings of different formats, and other activities. Shuman (2019) emphasizes that the efficacy of both forms of training is high, but formal education is more beneficial for hard sciences, while informal training is more appropriate for other disciplines and fields.

The collaboration with different organizations has become a potent instrument to promote Black investigators’ participation in STEM research. Leaders in the IT industry are primary targets in such projects (Cain, Morgan Bryant, Buskey, Washington, & Burge, 2019). It is necessary to mention that both companies and institutions benefit from this collaboration. First, organizations receive an opportunity to enhance their workforce diversity that is rather low at present. For instance, 9% of Apple employees are African Americans, which is the highest rate among other top-ranking IT companies (Cain et al., 2019). LinkedIn, Microsoft, Facebook, and Intel report 4% of Black employees, 3% of Twitter’s workforce is Blacks, while Googles’ 2% of employed African Americans seem rather unacceptable. The collaboration of these organizations with HBCU can also help students who can become more motivated and prepared to compete for research grants. Washington et al. (2015) provide evidence supporting this argument. The researchers report that a project implemented by a HBCU and Google resulted in the increased interest of students to computer science as well as their commitment to research participation.

Existing Gaps

The review of the current literature shows that many facets of the problem have been studied in-depth, but some gaps are still apparent. One of the major peculiarities of the research on the matter is its focus on the general efficacy of measures undertaken to facilitate Black faculty members’ and students’ participation in research. In simple terms, investigators examine the impact of projects and programs, their outcomes associated with stakeholders’ benefits, and methods of their efficient implementation. The projects associat3ed with grantsmanship are described in detail with all their components. Nevertheless, little or rather almost no attention is paid to the identity of the grantsperson and reasons behind their decision to apply for a grant.

Researchers tend to confine the analysis of demographics to the description of the basic features of their studies’ participants (such as age, ethnicity, gender). Okpodu and Maclin (2016) mention the rate of different groups of minority investigators involved in grant application throughout several years. Eisenhower (2018) includes a brief analysis of such demographic peculiarities as researchers’ ranks, their confidence levels in managing and securing. However, such characteristics as investigators’ motivations to apply for a grant or remain in the STEM field remain beyond the scope of research. It is important to pay attention to socioeconomic peculiarities of researchers, their past participation experiences, their plans, as well as their involvement in formal and informal grantsmanship training.

There is a lack of qualitative data that could help in crafting effective programs to develop STEM faculty and students. Case study research design prevails in the field associated with educational facilities’ grant revenue. The current research lacks specific voices that could provide insights into the challenges African American students of HBCU face or opportunities they have or miss. The target populations’ perspective concerning grant application and their involvement in computer science research, as well as their participation in projects implying alliances with IT companies, could be beneficial for the research into the prospects of HBCUs.

It is also important to add that the bias against HBCUs in terms of funding and Black researchers and professionals has been explored in much detail. However, African American investigators biases remain obscure and unresearched. However, researchers’ attitudes towards some organizations, grant providers, as well as disciplines, can provide valuable insights into the reasons for the low rate of Black investigators in the STEM field.

References

Bhattacharya, S., Okunbor, D., Sarami, C., Gillespie, P., & Nickolov, R. (2019). Strengthening computer and mathematical sciences engagement and learning. In K. M. MackKate & W. M. Soto (Eds.), Culturally responsive strategies for reforming STEM higher education (pp. 249-258). Bingley, England: Emerald Publishing Limited.

Bienen, L., Crespo, C. J., Keller, T. E., & Weinstein, A. R. (2016). Enhancing institutional research capacity: Results and lessons from a pilot project program. The Journal of Research Administration, 49(2), 64-90.

Bracey, E. N. (2017). The significance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the 21st century: Will such institutions of higher learning survive? American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 76(3), 670-696.

Cain, C. C., Morgan Bryant, A. J., Buskey, C. D., Washington, G., & Burge, L. (2019). Research implications of the tech exchange: Immersion of Howard University computer science and informatics students in Silicon Valley. In Twenty-fifth Americas Conference on Information Systems (pp. 1-5). Web.

Charleston, V., Gilbert, J., Escobar, B., & Jackson, J. (2014). Creating a pipeline for African American computing science faculty: An innovative faculty/research mentoring program model. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 28(1), 85-92(8).

Coupet, J. (2016). Strings attached? Linking Historically Black Colleges and Universities public revenue sources with efficiency. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 39(1), 40-57.

Eisenhower, T. (2018). Best practices in grantsmanship: A case study of a high-performing predominantly undergraduate institution. Web.

Favero, N., & Rutherford, A. (2019). Will the tide lift all boats? Examining the equity effects of performance funding policies in U.S. higher education. Research in Higher Education, 1-25.

Gasman, M., & Nguyen, T. H. (2014). Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Leading our nation’s effort to improve the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2(1), 75-89.

Guers, J. J., Gwathmey, J., Haddad, G., Vatner, D. E., & Vatner, S. F. (2017). Minority investigators lack NIH funding. Science, 356(6342), 1018.2-1019.

Hemming, J., Eide, K., Harwood, E., Ali, R., Zhu, Z., & Cutler, J. (2019). Exploring professional development for new investigators underrepresented in the federally funded biomedical research workforce. Ethnicity & Disease, 29(Suppl 1), 123-128.

Kelchen, R., & Stedrak, L. J. (2016). Does performance-based funding affect colleges’ financial priorities? Journal of Education Finance, 41(3), 302-321.

Moore, L. A., Pizzetta, C., Kupenda, A. M., & Leggette, E. J. (2018). Normalizing the recognition of implicit bias as a precursor to normalizing blackness: The JSU advance implicit bias think tank-mitigating implicit bias against Black female faculty in stem at HBCUs in the Deep South, and other groups more broadly. Southern Journal of Policy and Justice, 12(1), 3-20.

Okpodu, C. M., & Maclin, A. P. (2016). Assessing the effects of STEM enrichment programs on HBCU students. In L. A. Flowers, L. O. Flowers, & J. L. Moore III (Eds.), Advancing educational outcomes in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (pp. 51-63). Lanham, MD: UPA.

Pece, C. (2019). Federal Science and Engineering obligations to academic institutions increase 2%; support to HBCUs declines 17%. Web.

Sauer, R. M., & Gabbi, C. (2018). Grantsmanship: What? Who? How? European Journal of Internal Medicine, 57, 22-24.

Shuman, K. M. (2019). Grant proposal preparation readiness: A glimpse at the education level of higher education faculty. The Journal of Research Administration, 50(1), 89-107.

Sprague, M., Wilson, K. F., & Cain, B. E. (2018). Reducing local capacity bias in government grantsmanship. The American Review of Public Administration, 49(2), 174-188.

Toldson, I. A. (2016). The funding gap between Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Traditionally White Institutions needs to be addressed. The Journal of Negro Education, 85(2), 97-100.

Washington, A. N., Burge, L., Mejias, M., Jean-Pierre, K., & Knox, Q. A. (2015). Improving undergraduate student performance in computer science at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through industry partnerships. In Proceedings of the 46th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (pp. 203-206). Web.

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