• Latonia Jones

What's Going On?

On Feb. 27, three NASA offices provided an open platform for HBCU and MSI representatives to learn about contract opportunities through NASA’s Mentor-Protégé Program, Small Business Innovative Research/Small Business Technical Transfer (SBIR/STTR) contracts, as well as grant and cooperative agreement opportunities. Photo by Sharon Brooks Hodge

Last year, we started this blog for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) particularly for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to get some informal education on going after government contracts. Also, because last year NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) issued three awards to incorporate a new program element for Sustainability and Innovative Collaboration for competition for federal funds focused on contracting opportunities by MSIs.

I think that was a monumental feat and a step in the right direction. As I took the month of March off from this blog for Spring Break, I reflected on what’s really going on. Are we moving in the right direction, are we making a difference in the government contracting world, are the Minority Serving Institutions actually “getting” it?

Marvin Gaye's words begin to ring in my ear during this time of reflection. His song begins with “Mother, mother there’s too many of you crying, brother, brother, brother there’s far too many of you dying.” Then the song says, “You know we’ve got to find a way …”

When I got to that part, I paused. I say to you that we have found a way. But we are not using our resources to access the capital that has been put in front of us. What’s going on? That’s my question.

Why are we not attending the workshops, webinars and road tours to assist us with learning about government opportunities? In the month April, NASA will be holding a road tour event at Tuskegee University and the Alabama A&M University RISE Foundation will be hosting a contract readiness workshop on the campus of Lawson State University in Birmingham. Have you registered to attend either?

On March 20, Dr. Guy-Alain Amoussu, the associate provost at Bowie State University and Dr. Ivory Toldson, the CEO of the Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network delivered opening remarks at a 2-day forum for Minority Serving Institutions. Photo by Sharon Brooks Hodge

Those of us that are attending the events, are we really going back and doing what we have learned? If we are doing what we have learned the question is does it work? I have been doing this work for more than 25 years now, and I must say I have seen it work. The difference in those that it is working for and those that it isn’t working for is some are willing to be consistent, persistent, and engaged.

We don’t have to find a way. We have the way. We just need to engage in actions that brings us closer to success. Marvin Gaye ends the song saying, “Don’t punish me with brutality. C’mon talk to me, so you can see what’s going on.”

So I will end by saying build new relationships with universities, people, communities, and businesses that are already engaged in government contracts and COLLABORATE. Next steps set up meetings, network, attend workshops and go after opportunities together. That’s what should be going on.

Here’s an overview of upcoming activities to help MSIs become contract ready.

Latonia Jones is the chief executive officer of Phenomenal Management Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in creating and implementing business development strategies for academic institutions that conduct research and development for federal government agencies.

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