Sen. Hagan tours Engineering Research Center, promotes her bill to support innovation at HBCUs

Sen. Hagan speaking to reporters

Sen. Kay Hagan speaks to reporters at the Fort IRC.

Sen. Hagan and news media photographers in research lab

Sen. Hagan listens to Wayne Szafranski of A&T in the Engineering Research Center’s  Material Processing and Characterization Lab.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is promoting innovation at historically black universities, and on Monday she brought the news media to N.C. A&T for a close-up look at what she’s talking about.

Accompanied by a group of national and local reporters and, photographers, and videographers, Sen. Hagan toured the NSF Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials and then held a news conference to talk about her bill to create a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Innovation Fund.

The Engineering Research Center is developing an advanced magnesium alloy to make screws, plates, and other implantable devices that could hold broken or surgically repaired bones in place for healing and then dissolve and pass out of the body when they’re no longer needed.

The technology could eliminate the need in many cases for either surgical removal or for patients to carry metal parts in their bones for a lifetime.

Sen. Hagan was joined in her news conference by Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. and two A&T bioengineering grad students, Adrienne Daley and Roman Blount.

HBCUs represent just 3% of U.S. colleges and universities, Hagan said. They enroll just 9% percent of African American undergraduates. But they produce:

  • 17% of all African American bachelor degree recipients,
  • 22% percent of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields earned by African Americans,
  • 24 percent of all African American PhDs, and
  • 50% of all African American teaching professionals.

Recognizing the outsized role HBCUs continue to play in serving African American, low-income, and first-generation college students, Sen. Hagan introduced the HBCU Innovation Fund bill to create a “strategic investment” in HBCUs.

The fund would provide competitive grants to HBCUs to develop innovative initiatives to improve student achievement; enhance student retention and completion; increase student enrollment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields; and expand the uses of technology. It would provide incentives for the development, testing, and spread of these innovations.

Hagan’s bill to strengthen HBCUs came last month as North Carolina legislators were moving in the opposite direction with a proposal to close historically black Elizabeth City State University. That idea was dropped late last week after an outcry from supporters of the university.

Sen. Hagan explains a point to a reporter

Sen. Kay Hagan is interviewed by MSNBC in the Fort IRC before her tour of the Engineering Research Center.


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