UTPA to host third national Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnerships Conference
By Melissa C. Rodriguez , Public Affairs Specialist
Posted: 01/30/2006
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In an effort to create alliances and promote research partnerships between small business, academia, corporations and government The University of Texas-Pan American will host the third national Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnerships 2006 (MSIRP’06) Conference – Feb. 1-4.

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Pictured from left to right are Jackie Michel, director of Innovation and Intellectual Property at UTPA; Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, UTPA president; Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, associate vice president for Research at UTPA; Shelly Mehra-Chtcherba, Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnerships (MSIRP’06) Conference manager; Connie Humphrey, chief of staff for Congressman Rubén Hinojosa; and Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo, provost/vice president for Academic Affairs at UTPA.
“Through workshops, seminars, keynote speeches by national experts, as well as a business and career expo, participants will have a rare opportunity to network and dialogue with a diverse community of people devoted to promoting strategic alliances and developing long-term relations cutting across all sectors of the country,” Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, associate vice president for Research at UTPA, said.

Fowler said the purpose of the conference is to bring participants, including faculty and students, from throughout the country together and learn from each other about contracting, entrepreneurship and cooperative research activities with federal agencies.

The MSIRP’06 Conference will also teach participants how to compete for federal research dollars, Fowler said. This year, the federal research and contracting budget is $135 billion. A percentage of those dollars are targeted toward minority and disadvantaged businesses. UTPA, a Minority Serving Institution and the first Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) to host the conference, qualifies to compete for those targeted dollars as do many regional businesses.

UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas said most of what has developed in this country for commercial purposes began in basic research that was very often funded by the federal government.

“Research is too expensive for institutions to do it by themselves. They need the federal money,” Cárdenas said. “We haven’t been able to access that because we haven’t been connected and we haven’t networked. This conference is about bringing federal agencies together with our researchers and faculty members and those of other universities and colleges who want to partner with us.”

In addition to the more than 600 faculty members, business people and federal and corporate representatives, thousands of college students are also expected to attend the three-day conference and business and career exposition.

“Over the course of the last five years, The University of Texas-Pan American has been involved in the most aggressive work in the nation in filling a national need – the need to educate more of our young people in the STEM disciplines, which consist of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The MSIRP’06 Conference is the research corollary with what we have been trying to do with HESTEC and other programs,” Cárdenas said. “If this nation is to maintain its leadership in the research arena, the students of South Texas have to be excited about research.”

Congressmen Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15) commended UTPA for hosting such a prestigious conference which has a track record of success in building sustainable education, research and business partnerships among Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribally-controlled Colleges and Universities and government and private entities.

“It is critical to our national security and future economic prosperity that our nation’s Minority Serving Institutions play a bigger role in research and development,” Hinojosa said, in a prepared statement which was read at the press conference. “These are the institutions that are educating and graduating the fastest growing segments of our population. Investing in Minority Serving Institutions builds the capacity of our communities. Increasingly, in our knowledge-based economy, institutions of higher education will be the engines of economic development.”

The conference kicks off with an opening reception on Wednesday, Feb. 1. More than 100 speakers from more than 25 federal agencies and six corporations will be sharing their technology forecasts and research contracting needs beginning Thursday, Feb. 2. The conference sessions continue Friday, Feb. 3 and the Business and Career Expo, which is free, opens with more than 50 exhibitors. The conference sessions and Business and Career Expo continue on Saturday, Feb. 4 until 1 p.m.

“We expect participants to walk away with an understanding of partnership, targeted research grants, contract opportunities, the knowledge that it takes to contract with federal agencies and partner with prime contractors, and an understanding of how to foster entrepreneurship,” Fowler said. “In addition we expect something from the federal agencies. We expect a commitment to fully engage Minority Serving Institutions and research partnerships. We expect genuine partnerships to develop between MSIs and prime contractors.”

Information on the MSIRP’06 Conference at UTPA and a detailed schedule of events is available at or via e-mail at or by calling 956/292-7343.