UTPA reps attend second Strategic Planning Meeting for MSIRP '06
Posted: 07/12/2005
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Representatives from The University of Texas-Pan American recently attended the second strategic planning meeting for the third Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnerships (MSIRP) Conference scheduled for Feb. 2-4, 2006 at UTPA - the first time the conference will be held at a Hispanic Serving Institution. The planning meeting, held in Washington, D.C. in May, was hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU).

More than 60 representatives of governmental agencies, corporations, small businesses, and university presidents, provosts and faculty from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) participated in the meeting.

UTPA Associate Vice President for Research Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler (left) is pictured with Jeanette Brown (right), director of the U.S. EPA's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), during the May strategic planning meeting in Washington, D.C. for the 2006 Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnerships (MSIRP) Conference. Planned for February, the 2006 MSIRP Conference at UTPA will be the first time it will be held at a Hispanic Serving Institution.
Speakers from UTPA were Associate Vice President for Research Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, who presented a summary of the history of the conference and information on next year's conference site - UTPA, and Shelly Chtcherba, research coordinator at the University's Computing and Information Technology Center (CITeC) and the MSIRP '06 conference manager, who presented the proposed objectives and structure of the conference Steering Committee and its subcommittees to deliver a successful event. Jackie Michel, CITeC's director of new business development, also attended the meeting. Besides the EPA, other federal agencies participating included the U.S. Department of Interior, NASA, Department of the Army, Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration.

In welcoming those helping plan the conference, OSDBU Director Jeanette Brown said she was pleased with the interest and participation of those who attended.

"We're off to a great start and the enthusiasm and momentum is apparent. There is still much to be done but I believe we have the necessary components to carry that momentum forward and deliver an excellent conference," Brown said.

The goal of the MSIRP '06 Conference is to encourage sustainable business and educational partnerships among governmental agencies, businesses, industry and institutions of higher learning, particularly Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including HSIs (Hispanic Serving Institutions), HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and TCUs (Tribal Colleges and Universities).

UTPA was chosen as the site of the 2006 conference as a result of their steadily increasing enrollment figures, diversity and anticipated growth over the next few years. UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, who has made a commitment to UTPA becoming a Carnegie Intensive Research Institution by 2010, has expressed her support of the conference.

"It (conference) overlaps with UTPA's mission to support and encourage the development of sustainable partnerships through collaborative educational and business development initiatives," Cárdenas said.

During the conference planning session, several presentations were made by EPA officials about the various programs within EPA having missions that overlap with the goals of the conference. EPA, which has as its overriding goal to help educate the public about the environment, executes its mission through research grants, graduate fellowships and contracting opportunities. While most of the EPA programs seek to provide educational opportunities for talented MSI students, others specifically relate to public health concerns and minority business development.

Shelly Chtcherba (left), research coordinator at UTPA's Computing and Information Technology Center(CITeC), and Jackie Michel (right), CITeC's director of new business development, both participants in the May strategic planning committee for the next Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnerships (MSIRP) Conference scheduled for February 2006 at UTPA, met with Dr. Marcus W. Shute (center), vice president of research and sponsored programs and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tennessee State University, while at the planning meeting in Washington, D.C. Chtcherba is the MSIRP '06 conference manager.
In her presentation to attendees, Brown discussed EPA's OSDBU, which develops programs to encourage the involvement of small, disadvantaged, women-owned businesses as well as Minority Serving Institutions and to make these entities more competitive in contracting and grant opportunities. Brown said OSDBU also provides outreach in the form of training seminars, mentoring, counseling and advocacy for these target populations.

Other speakers from the EPA included Roberta Miller, Office of Research and Development, who outlined the EPA Internship Program that targets engineering, public policy and administration majors; Jonathan Newton, Office of Civil Rights, who discussed his office's objectives, which include dissemination of information and grant opportunities for MSIs; and Edsel Brown, Office of Technology, who talked about his office's interest in development of women-owned business and its provision of free training classes to promote this interest. More information on EPA programs is available at

As the strategic planning session came to a close, the attendees committed to a knowledge-sharing between the MSIs and to creating solid, long-term relationships with organizations and businesses interested in developing potential job and research opportunities. As the 2006 conference manager, Chtcherba said she was delighted with both the turnout and the response.

"The meeting confirmed our idea that there are others who are committed to the same goals as we are. We are confident that we are headed in the right direction and that we can, in fact, deliver a successful conference that will benefit all parties and please our stakeholders as well," she said.

The planning committee, seeking funding support for the conference, discussed sponsorship levels and outlined the next steps in the conference planning strategy. MSIRP '06 will feature panels, forums and a Business and Career Expo. For sponsorship opportunities or other information, please visit the conference Web site at