For Many Minorities, Funding for Educational Needs Lags Far Behind Effort

Dr. Lovell Jones
Dr. Lovell Jones

No one can change the past, but we have the power to change the future if we set our minds to it. Today more than 90 percent of the nation’s population growth is from people of color. Yet we are failing to address the educational needs of these individuals. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can choose to change the world.” Why are we not using this weapon to address our country’s needs?

Among those attempting to fill the pipeline one student at a time include such individuals as Dr. Rick Cherwitz, founder and director of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium (IE) in the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement (DDCE), and professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Isaiah Warner, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiative, Boyd Professor, and Philip W. West professor of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge; and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. But they need help! What is required is not a village, but villages striving for the same thing. What are these individuals doing that others should emulate?

The Intellectual Entrepreneurship is a philosophy and vision of education viewing academics as “innovators” and “agents of change” started by Cherwitz in 1996 as an associate dean in the grad school in 1996. From 1997 to 2003, 5,000 grad students enrolled in our IE courses. Then, starting in 2003, the IE Pre Grad Internship has enrolled about 2,500 students. The program focuses on creating cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaborations designed to produce intellectual advancements with a capacity to provide real solutions to society’s problems and needs.

Intellectual Entrepreneurship is academic engagement for the purpose of changing lives. Intellectual Entrepreneurship moves the mission of institutions of higher learning from “advancing the frontiers of knowledge” and “preparing tomorrow’s leaders” to also “serving as engines of economic and social development.” In the process, the role of faculty member and student evolves from that of “intellectual provocateur” to becoming what might be called an “intellectual entrepreneur.”

What is most important is that 72 percent of IE participants are first-generation, underrepresented or economically disadvantaged students. More than 70 percent are women. This is not a coincidence. The philosophy of Intellectual Entrepreneurship shows promise as an approach to increasing the number of persons of color who attend graduate school.

The value of IE as a mechanism for increasing diversity is inherent in its capacity to allow students to become entrepreneurs—to discover otherwise unobserved connections between academe and personal and professional commitments. The spirit of intellectual entrepreneurship seems to resonate with and meet a felt need of minority and first-generation students, facilitating exploration and innovation.

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Source: Diverse Education

Dr. Lovell Jones of the Research Faculty at College of Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University (Corpus Christi) also is Professor Emeritus of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center andUniversity of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.

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