WASHINGTON – The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), with the support of the U.S. Department of Education, will convene its annual national conference Sept. 25-26 in Washington, D.C. The theme for this year’s conference is “HBCUs: Enhancing Innovation and Advancement.” The conference will commemorate National HBCU Week and highlight the significant contributions that HBCUs have made to the nation. More than 1,200 participants, including HBCU presidents and chancellors, are registered to attend this year’s conference. John S. Wilson, executive director of the initiative, will host the conference.

“This annual conference is a platform for us to tout the virtues of historically black colleges and universities, and to highlight the many dimensions of our ongoing federal investment in them,” Wilson said. “In addition to continuing to produce half of the African-American K-12 teachers in this country, HBCUs also have been effective at generating science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent. That is, in part, why President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan have affirmed that we cannot reach our national educational goals without continuing to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs.”

Senior Education Department staff will participate in a panel titled, “Clarifying and Enhancing Relations: HBCUs and the Federal Government,” on Sept. 25, at 10:30 a.m. The discussion, moderated by Wilson, will address several concerns in the HBCU community such as desegregation; financial aid; federal funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs; and capital financing. Panel participants will include Under Secretary Martha Kanter; Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights; Debra Saunders-White, deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs; Denise Forte, deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development; James Runcie, chief operating officer in the Office of Federal Student Aid; Zakiya Smith, senior policy advisor for education; and Donald Watson, executive director of the HBCU Capital Financing Program.

As executive director, Wilson and his office work with the White House; 32 federal agencies; and the private, corporate, and philanthropic sectors to ensure that HBCUs are a significant force in helping the nation reach President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020.