The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has once again launched a 10-week paid summer research fellowship available exclusively to faculty from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) – for the second year in a row. The program was first created in 2022.

The IC HBCU Faculty Fellowship at NGA was the first program within the intelligence community (IC) to afford HBCUs collaboration opportunities to tackle national security challenges directly with government scientists. The fellowship program enables a strategic relationship between NGA and HBCUs from across the United States, according to the geospatial intelligence agency.

“The initiative will raise NGA mission awareness among these colleges and universities and advance recruitment efforts for NGA and the IC overall, specifically with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students, while also advancing the agency’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) efforts,” the agency noted in a statement.

President Biden and Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, have repeatedly emphasized the importance of prioritizing DEIA efforts within the Federal government and the IC. According to the White House, HBCUs produce nearly 20 percent of all black college graduates and 25 percent of black graduates who earn degrees in the STEM disciplines.

According to NGA, it established the fellowship in 2022 to support the White House’s initiative to advance educational equity, excellence, and economic opportunity through HBCUs.

NGA established the fellowship by leveraging the agency’s visiting scientist program, which is managed through a partnership with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

“The intellectual contribution and novelty that [the participants] bring is so necessary to the tough research questions we are facing at NGA,” said John Chavis, Ph.D., one of the program mentors.

Last year the program brought together an inaugural cohort of five fellows, who conducted research such as computer vision and predictive analysis and provide insight into the agency’s mission to provide geospatial intelligence to national and allied systems for geospatial intelligence.

All five participants of the inaugural cohort said the fellowship gave them the knowledge to take back to their universities and students. Several said their universities are creating new classes, senior projects, and curricula as a result. They also said many of their students are now interested in internship and employment opportunities at NGA.

“I can say that this was a very productive research collaboration,” said Sambit Bhattacharya, Ph.D., of Fayetteville State University, who worked on an artificial intelligence problem set during his fellowship. “It’s sometimes hard to set up a productive collaboration, especially when coming from a primarily teaching institute.”

Fellows receive a $35,000 stipend plus consideration of travel expenses for the 10-week engagement. Those with security clearances will be assigned to NGA’s Springfield, VA, or St. Louis, MO, location. Those without clearance will either be assigned to the St. Louis location or will perform research at their home institution under the guidance of an NGA mentor.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.