Today, Governor Roy Cooper toured Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) and met with students in various STEM-related programs, including the Next Generation Black STEM Teacher Network program and WSSU’s Astrobotany Lab.
“North Carolina has the greatest array of public and private universities in the country, including Winston-Salem State University,” said Governor Cooper. “Innovative STEM programs like these are helping to strengthen and diversify our workforce, so our students can take on the jobs of the future.”
“We are thrilled to present to Governor Cooper the landmark work we are doing here at Winston-Salem State University,” said Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson. “It is vitally important to us that we move the needle in STEM education. In recent years many of these fields have seen a significant drop in their qualified workforce. Our work is filling the gap and positively impacting the lives of students that may have never considered a career in STEM.”
Winston-Salem State University is one of 10 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina. It ranks as one of the top 50 producers of bachelor’s degrees in the nation for African Americans in physical science. The university received a $28.2 million Gear Up grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create and activate a program that will help students prepare for post-secondary education.
During the visit, Governor Cooper toured the WSSU New Sciences Building, which was completed in 2019. It is a $53.3 million services building that was first funded through the NC Connect Bond approved by voters and houses many of the school's STEM programs.
The Next Generation Black STEM Teacher Network program is working to increase the number of highly trained and certified Black STEM teachers for both rural and urban school districts by providing tuition assistance, scholarships and stipends for participation in professional development and STEM research programs. In December 2021, WSSU was awarded over $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education to facilitate this program.
The goals of the Next General Black STEM Teacher Network are aligned with the recommendations of the Governor’s DRIVE Task Force, which was created by executive order in December 2019. In June, the Task Force released its Action Plan to increase the diversity of the educator workforce in North Carolina.
Winston-Salem State University’s Astrobotany Lab provides undergraduates with opportunities to work with NASA and shadow scientists and researchers at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The partnership helped to create the lab on the WSSU campus in 2018, part of a Space Act agreement with NASA to research crop production in space. The plants will go on spaceships at some point.
Several state agencies have HBCU internship and outreach programs to build our public workforce pipeline, including the NC Department of Transportation, NC Department of Health and Human Services and NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.