News: STEM: Little Rock District teams up with University of Pine Bluff
Story by Kent Cummins
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District recently signed a partnership agreement with the oldest historically black institution of higher education in Arkansas.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, established in 1873, and the district signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering,
Mathematics enrichment programs to increase the number of well‐prepared, underrepresented minority STEM graduates for careers in STEM professions.
“This partnership is good for the Corps and good for University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff,” said Col. Courtney W. Paul, Little Rock District commander. “The Corps needs engineers and people with science and mathematics backgrounds to help us carry on our mission of maintaining the nation’s infrastructure into the future. This agreement is a way for us to pool our resources in a time when resources are limited.”
One of UAPB’s goals is to use science and technology to help solve economic, physical, social, political, racial and cultural problems. UAPB already collaborates with other colleges and universities in the Arkansas through the National Science Foundation funded STEM Academy, but the head of the university is enthusiastic about the chance to work with a federal entity.
“It is an exciting opportunity for UAPB to be able to partner with a key agency of the government … the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said UAPB Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander. “It gives our students and faculty opportunities. We have been a partner with the Corps in many ways in the past, but this helps to solidify the partnership. It is the next phase of development.”
The MOU includes numerous ways for the university and the Corps to work together.
As part of the partnership, the university will participate in its STEM Guest Lecture Series, Science Fair Expo, paid internship program, STEM Summer Academy and faculty development opportunities.
The MOU also states that UAPB will share concepts for grant proposals, visit Corps facilities to increase familiarity with their operation, scientists and common STEM interests for collaborative research and educational program advancement.
“It gives the student a new ‘laboratory’ to work in, a new experience, scholarships, the potential for shared research, said Mary E. Benjamin, UAPB’s vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “It gives us technical assistance, such as the Corps reviewing our posters and oral presentations before we take them out to national conferences.”
As part of the STEM MOU, the Little Rock District will also provide detailed information on the Pathway intern program and provide STEM and other students annual training on applying for and preparing resumes for federal jobs.
The Corps will also include UAPB in market research for contract opportunities that are compatible with the university’s programs and faculty expertise or the Historically Black College and University Socioeconomic Program.
“I am happy to form this union,” said Benjamin. “It will bring about lots of good things for our students and faculty. It will help the students become more integrated into work areas that will help them find jobs.”
The leader behind the scenes that brought the university and Corps together is a district employee and UAPB alumna.
“I am honored to be a part of this partnership,” said Sandra Easter, Little Rock District contracting chief. “It allows me to reflect on my cooperative experience at UAPB. It is important to me. I have had a long career with the federal government and these are times that are rewarding for me because I can come back to the university and share with students my career and the opportunities that may be available to them.”
There was already a connection between the Corps and UAPB before the official signing of the memorandum.
“We currently have a number of UAPB graduates working at the Little Rock District in our resource management, regulatory, and contracting,” said Easter. “UAPB has a rich history with the Corps of Engineers.”
This new collaborative partnership, made possible by an MOU, will ensure the university’s rich history with the district continues to flourish in the future.