The Texas Land Grant Day 2021, held virtually on 17 September 2021, was the inaugural event dedicated to building a bridge between Texas A&M University (TAMU) and Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) campuses, faculty, and students. Around 170 administrators, faculty, students, and staff from TAMU and PVAMU attended the event.
The conference was a joint initiative between both Colleges of Engineering and featured faculty opportunities to engage and network. The overall goal of the event was to build long-term relationships that strengthen cooperation between the two universities. The conference also served as an open forum for faculty from both universities to provide input on building better ties.
The day kicked off with an introduction to Texas Land Grants Day and Conference Goals by Tracy Hammond, Director ofInstitute for Engineering Education and Innovation (IEEI), Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and Director, Sketch Recognition Lab, Texas A&M University. Hammond chaired the conference planning committee with faculty and administrators from both universities.
The event also included addresses from Timothy P. Scott, Interim Provost & Executive Vice President at TAMU, and James Palmer, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at PVAMU.
Scott said in his address, “We are separated by 47 miles, but we hope this is the first of many meetings and collaborations, some have already existed prior to building a bridge between these two excellent institutions, so that we can have opportunities for faculty and students to engage and network, and to establish long term relationships that will strengthen the cooperation leverage the strengths of each institution, and thereby increase individual and collective excellence on both entities.”
Palmer said, “The cultural differences between our two campuses and institutions of higher education offer opportunities for faculty and students from both institutions to learn about each other’s cultures, through the lens of research and teaching areas of mutual institutional importance. Our partnership helps us to engage students and ourselves as faculty and researchers in socially responsive activities that address local, national, and global problems.”
The speakers for the day included John Hurtado, Interim Vice-Chancellor and Dean, College of Engineering, Texas A&M University; Karen Butler-Purry, Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Associate Provost and Dean, Graduate and Professional School; Tyrone Tanner,
Professor, Educational Leadership and Counseling, Executive Director of the Northwest Houston Center Campus, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies; Pamela H Obiomon, Dean of Engineering, Prairie View A&M University; Karan Watson, Professor Electrical & Computer Engineering, Joint Faculty, Computer Science Engineering Department, IEEI Distinguished Fellow; and Harry Hogan, Professor Mechanical Engineering, Acting Senior Associate Dean, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.
While Frank Jackson, Former Mayor of Prairie View, delved into a detailed overview of the history of Land Grants and the PVAMU–TAMU Relationship, Watson spoke about cultural competency and how both institutions should work together and restore the balance from the original land grant mission.
Dr. Karen Butler Purry and Dr. Tyrone Tanner shared some of the efforts between the two universities. They gathered suggestions on how both universities can build and expand those mutually beneficial partnerships.
This was followed by the PVAMU and TAMU research and lab presentations. Each participating lab received a free exhibitor space on our conference’s virtual portal. This “virtual booth” allowed them to share a video and other details about their lab. At the Minute Madness presentation, faculty and researchers highlighted their research interests, upcoming projects, and possible collaboration opportunities.
Faculty and Researchers were then put into several breakout rooms for the Faculty/researcher Speed Dating event. In the style of speed dating, faculty took ten minutes to get to know and chat with the people in their breakout rooms. After these brief sessions, the planning committee hopes a special chemistry will develop between some of the participants, prompting the beginnings of new research relationships.
Student organizations with an engineering focus then introduced and highlighted their organizations to the conference attendees.
Christine Grant, Associate Dean of Faculty Advancement in the College of Engineering at NC State University and Professor of Chemical Engineering, NC State University, in her talk titled “Mentors, Mentors Everywhere: Weaving Informal and Formal Mentoring into Inclusive STEM Mentoring Quilts”, reviewed the crucial roles of inclusive mentoring in STEM, in the context of current challenges and opportunities. She spoke about how the changing roles of mentoring, as demonstrated by the range of programs from professional societies and institutions, can be attributed to differing levels of access, technology, and the recognition of mentoring excellence. She stressed that the development of solid mentoring networks comes full circle when those who are mentored become leaders in their own larger-scale self-directed formal/informal mentoring networks; and how engineering educators have a vital role in this network development.
The final hour of the conference consisted of an open forum discussion led by Hammond. Participants discussed relationship follow-throughs, ideas for collaboration, and a strategy going forward. Hammond said, “There is so much talent in Prairie View and College Station and we are only 47 miles apart. We need to tap into this talent and build relationships that will certainly make our research, education, students, and faculty stronger.”
Texas Land Grants Day will be held twice a year, once in College Station (in the fall) and once in Prairie View (in Spring), serving as a launchpad for new opportunities, projects, and grants between both institutions.