WINSTON-SALEM – African-Americans account for 12% of the U.S. population, yet only 5% of the people who work in science and engineering.1
Winston-Salem State University intends to do something about that with one of the projects in the Connect NC bond referendum that North Carolina voters will decide on March 15.
WSSU intends to produce more graduates to meet the Triad’s growing demand for workers in science, technology, engineering, math and health sciences – and also to meet the need for greater diversity among scientists and health providers.
“We’re trying to increase the number of minority scientists, the number of minority researchers,” said Chancellor Elwood Robinson. “We’re trying to increase the pipeline of minority scientists. To do that, we need the most modern science facilities.”
The bonds would help pay for a $50 million Sciences Building at Winston-Salem State that would provide 100,000 square feet of teaching and research space in the sciences.2
The building would be the anchor of a Science District on campus, for the first time putting WSSU’s computer, health sciences, biology, chemistry and biomedical programs in close proximity. The university currently leases space off campus for biomedical research.
“It will all be in the same place,” Robinson said. “It will be a scientific community.”
The building is designed with an eye toward collaboration across disciplines.
“The future of research is around collaboration. The future of research is interdisciplinary,” Robinson said. “It gives us different perspectives – collaboration is the key to innovation.”
Beyond good jobs for graduates, Robinson suggests that if WSSU produces more graduates in science and health fields, it can produce real results for minority communities.
“We have this huge disparity in minority health,” he said, “… but at the same time, there are not that many minority researchers.”
Winston-Salem State is poised to make that difference. The Sciences Building has already been designed, and construction should take two years.3 State officials emphasize that the bonds will not lead to a tax increase.
“We’ve been thinking about this building for 10 years…. We’ve been planning for a while,” Robinson said. “We’re ready to go – we’re shovel-ready.”
1 http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/2013/pdf/nsf13304_digest.pdf, Pp. 2, 8.
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