Anna Escobedo Cabral, the U.S. treasurer, was in Edinburg Friday, Feb. 3 to lend her support to the Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnerships 2006 (MSIRP'06) Conference at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Cabral, who was nominated in July 2004 by President George W. Bush for the position, will serve as the keynote speaker at a Friday evening barbecue for MSIRP'06 participants. During her visit, Cabral also visited an Edinburg elementary school and held a question and answer session with students.
The U.S. treasurer, who once served as deputy staff director for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Orrin G. Hatch and as an executive staff director for the U.S. Senate Republican Conference Task Force on Hispanic Affairs, said she has a long history of advocating for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and said the MSIRP'06 Conference is critical for those that want to work together to create a better future for the United States and its youth.
Cabral said her evening agenda will cover a number of initiatives Bush discussed during his State of the Union Address including, education and research, the state of the economy and the United States' relationship to the rest of the world.
"I'd like to share a little bit more details of his vision and talk a little about the economy and how well it is doing and what that means in terms of promise and opportunity for everyone living in any part of the United States and quite frankly how close we are in terms of our relationship to the rest of the world," Cabral said.
As part of the MSIRP'06 Conference, a Career and Student Expo was held that included 72 exhibitors representing entities such as government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses, most of which are on the cutting edge of technology.
The expo will continue Saturday, Feb. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon in the Health and Physical Education II Building.
Juan Brandi, a UTPA senior who is double-majoring in math and physics, attended the expo to find out more information about job opportunities and graduate programs. He said the expo opened his eyes to what is available to him.
"People over here are working on the edge of technology and the edge of business, and you're actually talking to those people about how it is and what it is you can do to get there," Brandi said.
Sam Jenkins, a project manager representing the NASA Headquarters Office of Education, said they attended MSIRP'06 to inform students about their agency.
"What we'd like to do is send a message out there to all the Hispanic students here at the University about our research opportunities, employment opportunities and mentoring opportunities," he said.
Jenkins did have the chance to talk to many students as they were drawn to the booth because it featured a simulator based on the International Space Station. The simulation allowed students to try and navigate the spaceship orbiter to a precise docking point on the space station. Jenkins said that although astronauts use a more advanced version, this simulator is a great educational tool.
In addition, Jenkins said he believed the expo was a good opportunity for students to network and make contacts with people from business, industry and education.
Tina Trevino, a UTPA graduate student in biology, said the expo gave her a chance to network with different organizations and people, as well as find out about how to apply for grants.
"It's pretty informative, looking at different opportunities that I can use with my graduate degree," she said. "I just found out some interesting research I could do in other countries."
Kendall Harris, associate dean of the College of Engineering at Prairie View A&M University, felt the expo was a great recruiting tool for recruiters as well.
"They know what they're going to get. They're recruiting quality students," he said.
Harris said the students he talked to asked the right questions.
"This really hones their communication skills in an environment that's still comfortable," he said. "It's not as intense as an interview, but at the same time, it's not as laid back as a social gathering. It really helps them with their network capabilities."
"Our country's survival depends on people in this country who are scientists and engineers. The opportunities (for those fields) will be there for the next 50 years. So please young students who are scientists and engineer want-to-be's continue to stay in that field because you will have a lot of great opportunities in the future," Miller said during the morning session.
In addition, Miller, who assists in discharging the responsibilities in the direction, guidance and supervision of Air Force programs for research, development and acquisition of systems, supplies and services, encouraged the small businesses and higher education institutions to look into possible partnerships with the U.S. Air Force through contracts, grants, and fellowships and internships for university students.
Clarence A. Johnson, principal director and director for Civilian Equal Employment Opportunity, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Equal Opportunity) at the Pentagon, served as the keynote speaker during the Friday luncheon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
Johnson's interactive address explained that the DOD's responsibility is to deter hostile aggression against the nation, its allies and against national interests, as well as engage and defend the countries enemies if necessary.
"This luncheon is sponsored by DOD to assist us in closing the gap among our young Americans, especially minorities, within the department and to spread awareness that the DOD has an abundance of promising careers," Johnson said. "Part of our strategic planning is to ensure that we access, develop, promote and retain a DOD workforce reflective of the tapestry of our great nation."
Hispanics are the only race/ethnic group who are underrepresented in the DOD civilian workforce. While Hispanics comprise 13-14 percent of the national civilian labor force, they only comprise 6.5 percent of DOD's civilian labor force, he said.
"We also recognize the potential that exists in other minority groups - at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, at Hispanic Serving Institutions, at Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other Minority Serving Institutions - and we want to tap that very crucial, critical potential," Johnson said.
He concluded by telling the large number of engineering students in the audience that more than half of the DOD's engineers earn $67,000-$103,000, while senior managers may earn even more. Additionally, Johnson said in 2006 the DOD will need to hire 12,000 engineers.
Another special guest during the conference was Secretary of the Army Dr. Francis J. Harvey, who spoke to a packed house Thursday evening at a networking reception at the Shary-Shivers Estate in Palmview. He talked about the Army's efforts on the global war on terrorism and its commitment to MSIs and small businesses. He told the audience the key to a successful future is basic research, which Harvey said the Army has increased funding for from $24 million to $38 million.
"It is really the only way to ensure the long-term success of the business venture. The bottom line is the Army relies on basic research to build the foundation for continuing the modernization of our equipment. We rely on universities and small businesses as key partners in that effort. As the preamble to the Constitution says 'to provide for the common defense,'" Harvey said.
MSIRP'06 participants got an opportunity to learn more about where and how Minority Serving Institutions and small businesses can assist meeting a corporation's mission and goals during a corporate panel session Feb. 3 featuring representatives from Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Moderator Jeff Goodman, university program grant manager at Raytheon, said they were at the conference to engage small businesses and minority institutions in establishing partnerships and learn how to contract with large corporations.
Barbara Osborn, who is Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems Supplier Diversity Business Leader and Small Business liaison officer, was the first of four speakers, all of who serve as supplier diversity program officers in their respective corporations. Supplier diversity officials are charged with identifying and including minority, women-owned and small business enterprises in their respective corporation's procurement processes.
"We want to provide maximum opportunities to small businesses to participate in procurement," Osborn said. Osborn provided an overview of the many programs and people available to assist those wanting to do business with Raytheon, an international industry leader in defense and government electronics, space, and information technology with 80,000 employees and 2004 revenue of $20.2 billion. She urged the audience to use online resources to learn how to do business with the corporation.
"You need to know how things are done and where to go to get assistance," she said, directing people to www.raytheon.com. Raytheon also provides a supplier online database.
Tizoc Loza, corporate project manager for Mentor-Protégé and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) and Minority Serving Institutions Programs, for Northrop Grumman Corporation in Washington, D.C., offered tips for gaining subcontracting opportunities with the global defense company.
Northrop Grumman establishes relationships with HBCUs/MSIs where they can provide learning experiences and research opportunities to faculty and students through projects. Loza said the corporation targets universities based on the technology they possess, as well as the potential of their students.
"We have people who are specialized to work with universities, who keep track of the university's progress and look out for technology they are interested in funding," Loza said.
Northrop Grumman offers a variety of collaborations with universities and colleges through its Mentor-Protégé Program, as well as a Technology Transfer Development Program, where they groom schools to provide specific services or courses of study from which they hope to glean future employees, Loza said.
"Through the Mentor-Protégé Program students can get real work experience and can go to our facilities and work with employees in areas such as engineering and information technology," he said, noting that the company operates in all 50 states and 25 countries. "We also use employees' education relationships as contacts for our partnerships as well."
The corporation needs subcontracts in engineering services, as well as training support in supply chain management, leadership training, business plan development, market analyses and strategic planning, among others, he said.
Osborn said Raytheon has used Minority Serving Institutions to provide some of the training for Mentor-Protégé Program companies. The University of Texas at El Paso, for example, has provided Geographic Information Systems training for one of Raytheon's protégé companies.
Vanessa Bull, manager for supplier diversity programs for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company and the advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions for Lockheed Martin's Supplier Diversity Program, shared two success stories her corporation currently had with direct subcontracting opportunities with HBCUs and Minority Institutions.
"Lockheed Martin manages Scandia Labs for the Department of Energy and we have several direct contracts with local universities directly to Scandia - one in soil erosion testing," she said.
Bull said these relationships are formed more readily when the contractor is in close proximity to the university and when the university has designated business management personnel at the university to facilitate the terms and conditions of the contract.
"That is where the hang up usually happens in working with universities. It is to your benefit to set up a designated business management person to assist in that negotiation process," she said.
Bull said that Lockheed Martin, a global corporation dealing in integrated systems, information technology, electronics, space and aeronautics, has 130,000 employees worldwide including 50,000 scientists and engineers. Her company's goal, she said, is to be the world's top corporation in subcontracts with small businesses.
Her number one tip in becoming a Lockheed Martin supplier echoed Osborn's advice - do your homework in order to best match your business or product with the corporation's needs. She referred the audience to the corporate Web site www.lockheedmartin.com. Their site also includes a supplier database.
"Another key word is performance. We are looking for suppliers that can perform and that is essential," Bull said.
Following the DOD luncheon, the last full day of the conference, Dr. David Falconer, vice chair of the Department of Computer Science at California State University, Fullerton, said what he enjoyed most was the opportunity to interact with colleagues and find out what they are doing with similar problems and programs on their campuses. Falconer also had a compliment for UTPA students he had met while here.
"They were a very articulate and wonderful group of young folks and I really enjoyed speaking with them," he said. Linda Patton, director of the Office of Grants and Contracts at Cal State Fullerton, was a member of the conference's planning committee and brought a team of faculty, students and alumni. She said it has been a wonderful opportunity for her to see how the project evolved and how students could benefit from participating.
At the end of Friday's conference activities, Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo, UTPA provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, labeled the conference a success.
"From what I have seen we have accomplished the primary purpose of the conference which was to begin to get people to talk to each other, especially to get our faculty in discussion with faculty from other institutions as well as with agency heads from the federal government on how to get engaged in contracting type of activities," he said. "I have a sense it will carry forward and as it carries forward, it will do exactly what we intended it to do, which is hopefully to bring more resources to this campus."