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DoD Reaches Out to Historically Black Colleges, Universities

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 23, 2005 – "We're here for a very selfish reason," a top DoD equal employment opportunity official told a room full of administrators and presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities at Alabama State University here today.

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Clarence A. Johnson, principal director and director, civilian equal employment opportunity, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity, told attendees at the DoD African American History Outreach Technical Assistance Workshop at Alabama State University that DoD was conducting the workshop "for very selfish reasons," which is to encourage students to work for DoD in the military or civilian work force. Photo by Rudi Williams

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"We're trying to make your programs enhanced, more connecting with what DoD does and for your programs to posture themselves for more use of DoD dollars so you can attract more students," said Clarence A. Johnson, principal director and director, civilian equal employment opportunity, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity.

"DoD's pipeline needs minority people in it," he noted. "As we look at our senior grades, both military and civilian, women and minorities are not there in a high enough number."

At the time, about 30 administrators and presidents from more than 150 HBCUs were in the audience, with many more expected later in the day. "We're hosting a technical assistance workshop," Johnson said earlier, "and we're talking to Historically Black Colleges and Universities administrators and staff about business and employment opportunities within the Department of Defense."

Representatives from various DoD agencies told the gathering about business opportunities and how to prepare themselves for DoD contracts, grants and access to excess equipment. Presenters also talked about business opportunities DoD has to offer HBCUs.

For example, Johnson pointed out that DoD offers grants on research and development and engineering. "DoD also has responsibility to give HBCUs a certain amount of small business contracts," he continued.

"In addition to business opportunities, there were numerous presentations on employment opportunities career possibilities for HBCU graduates to come into DoD, either as military people or as civilians," Johnson noted. "On the military side, there were ROTC presentations and on the civilian side, there were internship and other presentations on the employment side."

Johnson noted that the workshop supports Executive Order 12320, in which the president charges federal agencies to partner and collaborate with HBCUs to strengthen their capacity and to help enhance their infrastructure.

"We think that if HBCUs participate in these programs and posture themselves to get better at it, that would give them better capacity and therefore make them better producers of DoD military and civilian personnel," he said.

Johnson emphasized that DoD would like to see an increase in the number of minority graduates in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering and technology.

The technical assistance workshop focused on small and disadvantaged businesses, contracts and grants, science and technology, research and development, ROTC, internships and civilian employment opportunities and access to surplus and excess equipment.

Johnson pointed out that this year's theme for the outreach program and National African American History Month observance is "Reaching Out to Youth: A Strategy for Excellence." He told the audience that DoD representatives from technology and business communities, as well as members of the 16 defense agencies and the military services, including the Coast Guard, were available to talk about their programs and what they have to offer.

"In addition to conducting outreach, we're also here to observe African American History Month," Johnson noted. He said the state of Alabama and the institutes the educators represent have produced or supported many African Americans who have contributed greatly to national defense.

Joe A. Lee, president of Alabama State University, said having the DoD workshops at the university is "an opportunity of a lifetime for our students here on campus and students in the community to know about military and civilian opportunities that are available in DoD and what they need to do in preparation for those opportunities. It's also an opportunity for the institutions to explore other possibilities within the framework of surplus material, research opportunities, opportunities for faculty during times when they're out for the summer."

The gathering presents a huge opportunity, he said. "All of that makes a big difference, because otherwise they may not get the information about these opportunities, and to get them firsthand means everything," Lee said. "So we're extremely pleased that we have this opportunity to have DoD on campus."

Lee said he was inspired to bid for the DoD workshops at Alabama State University this year after attending last year's workshops at Florida A&M University. "I wanted to make sure that our students had an opportunity to be part of that experience," he noted.

Lee noted that DoD grants are important to HBCUs. "Our dean of the School of Allied Health has developed a program that would be very beneficial to DoD and working with soldiers who are coming back from overseas that may have the need for rehabilitation," he said. "We also have cutting-edge research going on here in immunization. One of our professors has perfected a method of dispensing vaccines without the need of refrigeration or sterilization. That kind of research is very beneficial to DoD in a lot of applications.

"We have research going on in the sense of taste and the sense of smell that can have applications for DoD," Lee continued. "So we're looking for collaborative efforts that would be beneficial to Alabama State and DoD."

Lee said the university has been talking to DoD agencies about students having opportunities for summer jobs and internships in their chosen professions.

"So it's a full gamut and an open-ended opportunity for the university, the students and other HBCUs that are here to see what the Department of Defense has to offer," Lee noted.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJoe A. Lee, president of Alabama State University, said having Defense Department workshops on campus is "an opportunity of a lifetime for our students here on campus and students in the community." Lee's remarks came during the DoD African American History Outreach Technical Assistance Workshop at ASU. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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