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NAFEO Unveils Technology Division to Assist HBCUs

NAFEO Unveils Technology Division to Assist HBCUs
Former FAMU administrator leads association’s IT efforts
By Ronald Roach

Since last August, Sterlin Adams has worked quietly behind the scenes to build an information technology program at the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO). A former administrator who has worked with NAFEO president and CEO Dr. Frederick Humphries since the 1980s, Adams now has the task of making NAFEO into a premier information technology service organization for the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Last month, the association, which lobbies the federal government on behalf of the HBCU community, announced publicly that it had created a technology division under the leadership of Adams. With Adams and the technology division no longer keeping a low profile, NAFEO officials say the division is being created “to help Black colleges acquire the necessary technology to propel them to the forefront of the current technology revolution.”

For Adams, who holds the position of vice president of technology at NAFEO, the opportunity will likely require him to draw upon the insights and experience he gained while managing information technology programs at Florida A&M University (FAMU). Since the summer, NAFEO has developed a computer purchase arrangement with Gateway Computers that benefits HBCUs. The organization plans to offer IT workshops at its upcoming annual meeting in Washington in April. NAFEO is the nation’s largest association of historically and predominantly Black colleges and universities representing 118 institutions, both public and private.

“We will be working with NAFEO members to identify and address their technology resource needs,” Adams says. “We’ll bring together the chief information officers, and other information technology personnel, from the schools to work on collaborative efforts to advance all our members. We will do this by working together to compete for corporate and federal funding to help us improve technology on HBCU campuses.”

The former chief information officer and director of the university planning and analysis office at FAMU, Adams is credited with being the administrator who led FAMU to be the first HBCU to join the Internet2 consortium. Schools that make up the Internet2 consortium are largely research universities that are building the infrastructure and applications for a next generation Internet. “I think my experiences with Internet2 are relevant to the work of the technology division,” Adams says.

Although there have been high-profile campaigns by groups, such as the United Negro College Fund to raise funds and to attract information technology contributions to historically Black schools, it has been said that NAFEO member schools need an organization that can advance information technology resources and capacities along a broad range of areas, such as research and e-commerce. Higher education institutions are increasingly collaborating with one another and are using the Internet as the primary link among schools, according to officials.

“There’s a lot of opportunities with information technology that many HBCUs have not been able to take advantage of. I would like to see NAFEO help Black schools take their technology (resources) to a higher level,” says Dr. Legand Burge, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Physical Sciences at Tuskegee University.

Adams says two priorities that have consumed the information technology division’s early work have been helping NAFEO members expand their distance-learning offerings and establish a virtual HBCU Web portal. Other priorities of the technology division include helping schools to establish comprehensive, modern and cost-effective enterprise resources planning systems for overall financial operations, student information, human resources and other important aspects of campus operations. The division also plans to assist schools in network security issues, broadband access and expanding NAFEO’s computing hardware acquisition efforts, according to officials.

“Pure and simple NAFEO wants to close the differentials in levels of technology between our members and other institutions of higher education,” Humphries says. “Our new technology division will help us immensely in this effort by bringing together the top faculty and researchers at HBCUs to address some of the most critical technology needs facing
HBCUs. ”

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