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JCSU courts Hagan
Redevelopment and sciences highlight U.S. senator’s tour
 
Published Thursday, January 19, 2012 7:21 am
by Herbert L. White

Johnson C. Smith University’s revitalization efforts in the Northwest Corridor has a potential political ally: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

The North Carolina Democrat and member of the Senate Education Committee was on the Beatties Ford Road campus Tuesday to review JCSU’s efforts to boost the community surrounding it as well as its science, technology and math curriculum. School officials lobbied Hagan for support of infrasturcture funding for Historic West End.
PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (center) is escorted by Magdy Attia, Johnson C. Smith University’s dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (left) and Special Assistant to the President Malcolm Graham Tuesday on the JCSU campus. 

“It’s an overall vision the university is portraying that we need federal support for,” said Malcolm Graham, special assistant to JCSU President Ronald Carter and a former colleague of Hagan’s in the N.C. Senate. “The streetcar, funding for housing and urban development, how do we begin to rebuild the corridor and how do we address issues like affordable housing. How we connect our distressed areas like the West Trade Street corridor to an urban area that’s less than a mile away like uptown Charlotte.”

Hagan was impressed by progress in the corridor.

“Obviously, we all know we’re in a terrible budget situation on the national level and I think we need to be cognizant that every dollar is extremely valuable and extremely important, but also think we do need to be investing in infrastructure,” she said. “There are so many needs out there, but we’ve got to have a good road system, a good development system that can connect a university to our downtown areas, and when we look at the Lynx system here in Charlotte – something that’s working well – we need to continue the development of that.”

Part of Hagan’s tour included JCSU’s science and technology programs, part of the school’s evolving curriculum. Funding science education and programs, Hagan said, is a national imperative.

“One of the things we need to recognize is STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math – is really the future for our businesses, our security,” she said. “It’s critically important that we need to make sure all of our children are educated, from K through 12 and obviously at our community college level and university level.”

Unlike major research universities like the University of California at Berkeley or UNC Chapel Hill, that land billions in federal grants, JCSU, by comparison, has modest goals. Christina Onunu, a senior biology and chemistry major from Newark, N.J., said smaller campuses can benefit from improved access to research money as well.

JCSU enrolls about 1,500 students.

“It is small, however, we get the individualized attention we need,” said Onunu, who showed Hagan results from her research on diabetes markers. “That way, we’re more focused and in tune with our research rather than being like the big schools. We take grants and make the most out of the situation.”

Hagan encouraged JCSU officials to work with her office to identify grants for research and STEM programs through federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and Department of Education.

“Innovation and creativity is something that we are focused on and I think that it certainly works hand in hand with STEM education,” she said.
Although Hagan’s visit didn’t yield commitments, Graham contends it highlighted what JCSU is capable of with proper funding.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. Obviously, the federal government is going through a budget crunch like everyone else, but we’re making sure she recognizes and understands what we’re doing at Johnson C. Smith University.”

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