Caesar Jackson, professor of physics at N.C. Central University, was awarded his Ph.D. in 1992 from N.C. State University. He remembers that he was among about a half dozen African-Americans to receive a doctorate in physics that year.
Since he arrived at NCCU 10 years ago, Jackson has been trying to boost black participation in physics, and he thinks a new partnership with his alma mater will help.
On Monday, NCCU and NCSU signed an agreement to establish a physics and engineering dual degree program. Students will spend three years studying physics at NCCU and the next two years studying computer and electrical engineering at NCSU. They will receive a dual-degree in both disciplines, from both schools.
Jackson said it’s difficult to recruit science students to NCCU, a historically black public liberal arts college, because of the lack of engineering opportunities, which many students believe will lead to more job opportunities. Jackson himself got a baccalaureate degree in engineering and worked as an IBM engineer for 10 years before returning to academia.
“Now, we can say that we have an engineering program that they can enroll in,” Jackson said.
NCSU was a logical partner for Central, according to Daniel Stancil, head of N.C. State’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He said the department is trying to diversify its student body.
“It’s important for us to represent North Carolina as well as we can,” Stancil said.
Electrical and computer engineering is at the heart of much of the technological innovation taking place today, he said, which puts more of a premium on diversity.
“Groups of people with diverse backgrounds are more effective at finding creative solutions to problems than teams of homogenous groups,” Stancil said. “It’s extremely important from a strategic point of view.”
NCSU has partnerships with other undergraduate progams, like all-female Meredith College in Raleigh, and NCCU offers transfer programs with engineering departments at Georgia Tech and Duke University.
But those other NCCU partnerships are often prohibitively expensive, Jackson said, because they do not offer the public, in-state tuition that both NCCU and N.C. State do. In 10 years, Jackson is aware of only two students going to Duke or Georgia Tech through the program.
Based on current interest, he expects three students to participate in the new program with NCSU every year.