Nearly $3 Million NSF Cyberinfrastructure Center of Excellence Pilot Aims to Advance Research Capabilities and Support Systems for HBCUs and TCUs

September 28, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 28, 2021 – Supported by a nearly $3 million Cyberinfrastructure Center of Excellence (CI CoE) Pilot program grant over two years from the National Science Foundation, the Minority Serving – Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (MS-CC) and Internet2 will provide researchers, professional staff, and students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) with programs and services that address their cyberinfrastructure needs. While the initial focus of this grant is to advance cyberinfrastructure on campuses with definite needs through a partnership model, possibilities exist for additional opportunities to further expand the collaborations and support among other minority serving institutions (MSIs).

The grant builds on earlier work by the MS-CC and Internet2, including three stakeholder mapping surveys administered to HBCUs, TCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and other MSIs. The survey results determined that limited workforce development opportunities and cyberinfrastructure capabilities are the two biggest barriers to achieving their cyberinfrastructure goals.

Deborah Dent, chief information officer at Jackson State University and co-principal investigator on the grant, says the NSF-funded CI CoE pilot will have transformative impacts on advanced cyberinfrastructure for research and education at currently underserved colleges and universities.

“We’re working toward establishing shared research cyberinfrastructure across a distributed community of colleges and universities in a mix  of urban, suburban, and rural settings, many of which are on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said Dent. “We have the data and empirical evidence that show what the immediate cyberinfrastructure needs are and what barriers are preventing campuses from achieving them. This grant is helping us formalize how we support underserved institutions by funding programs and services that prioritize addressing these gaps.”

Over the course of the two-year grant period, MS-CC, in collaboration with Internet2 and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), will work to address the barriers revealed by the stakeholder mapping surveys that are preventing HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs from achieving their primary data and research computing needs.

A key component of this effort is increasing awareness and support for professional and career development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students at HBCUs and TCUs.

Ana Hunsinger, vice president of community engagement at Internet2 and the grant’s principal investigator, says the formalization of a vibrant community of practice across MS-CC campuses that involves collaboration on cyberinfrastructure, education, and research applications is a shared vision among the collaborators.

“We’re keenly aware of the vast diversity in size and missions among HBCUs and TCUs in the U.S., but see great potential in working collaboratively on shared research and education cyberinfrastructure challenges,” said Hunsinger. “This NSF grant will propel the synergy among the MS-CC, AIHEC, and Internet2, allowing us to create opportunities for members from HBCUs and TCUs to get the resources, support, and training they need. All while building communities of practice and creating spaces where mentorship can flourish.”

Among the goals of the grant is to increase access to cyberinfrastructure resources to empower researchers in their use of advanced cyberinfrastructure at the campus, regional, national, and international levels.

Additionally, the grant will support the promotion of effective communication among researchers, university leadership, and cyberinfrastructure professionals by extending and enhancing the reach and impact of campus and national research computing infrastructures to institutions with minority serving missions.

By the end of the two-year funding period, the MS-CC hopes to establish itself as an independent, self-sustaining organization focused on cyberinfrastructure at HBCUs, TCUs, and other MSIs.

“We’re taking an adaptive approach to operating as a consortium, and we’re committed to learning and adjusting our operational model to ensure that we continue to lift all participating institutions by advancing cyberinfrastructure for research and education across diverse fields, disciplines, and communities,” said Richard Aló, dean of the college of science and technology at Florida A&M University, and co-principal investigator on the grant.

Additional co-principal investigators on the grant are Damian Clarke, chief information officer at Meharry Medical College, and Al Kuslikis, senior associate for strategic initiatives at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

The CI CoE pilot will also be supported by leadership from James (Joey) Brenn, associate vice president for information technology at Claflin University; Carl Robert (Bobby) Clark, director of CCIT procurement and vendor management at Clemson University; Ming-Hsing Chiu, associate professor and program coordinator of the computer science program at Dillard University; Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, professor in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and co-founder of WayMark Analytics; Henry T. Jackson, vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer at North Carolina A&T State University; Urban Wiggins, vice provost in the office of decision science and visualization at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and Lisa Wilson, associate vice president of research and sponsored programs at Clark Atlanta University.

To learn more about the MS-CC, visit www.ms-cc.org. Source material: NSF Award page.

About Minority Serving-Cyberinfrastructure Consortium

MS-CC envisions a transformational partnership to promote advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) capabilities on HBCU, HSI, TCU, and MSI campuses, with data; research computing; teaching; curriculum development and implementation; collaboration; and capacity-building connections among institutions. The consortium emerged from a National Science Foundation funded pilot project that was awarded through Clemson University: NSF OAC #1659297 “CC* Cyber Team: Cyberinfrastructure Empowerment for Diverse Research, Scholarship, and Workforce Development (CI Empower).”

Discussions that emerged among South Carolina State, Claflin, Jackson State, and Morgan State Universities from workshops supported by the CI Empower grant made clear to the participants that they all shared common challenges on their campuses, and that by working together they can build a coalition to advocate for their cyberinfrastructure needs as a group. In June 2018, during a workshop at Georgia Tech, a working group of 20 participants helped create a chartering document for the MS-CC. For more information, visit www.ms-cc.org.

About Internet2

Internet2 is a non-profit, member-driven advanced technology community founded by the nation’s leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 serves 323 U.S. universities, 59 government agencies, 45 regional and state education networks and through them supports more than 80,000 community anchor institutions, over 1,000 InCommon participants, and 54 leading corporations working with our community, and 70 national research and education network partners that represent more than 100 countries.

Internet2 delivers a diverse portfolio of technology solutions that leverages, integrates, and amplifies the strengths of its members and helps support their educational, research and community service missions. Internet2’s core infrastructure components include the nation’s largest and fastest research and education network that was built to deliver advanced, customized services that are accessed and secured by the community-developed trust and identity framework.

Internet2 offices are located in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Denver, Colo.; Washington, D.C.; and West Hartford, Conn. For more information, visit www.internet2.edu.


Source: Internet2

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