Growing up, Drew Grant had many K-12 instructors who cared about him and motivated him to do well in his studies.
But it was as an undergraduate at Morgan State University that he first encountered teachers who challenged him to dream big. Now Grant is pursuing a doctorate in electrical engineering at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering under adviser James West, a professor of electrical and computer engineering known worldwide as the inventor of the electret microphone.
"Being inspired and mentored at Morgan by people that look like me is the reason I decided to pursue a doctoral degree," Grant said. "My goal is to work on challenging and impactful problems—specifically, problems that plague the Black community—and provide opportunities for people who are far too often overlooked."
Grant will share his experiences and perspectives as part of GradPath Collaborative's inaugural event, aimed at strengthening Johns Hopkins partnerships with HBCUs, both to attract talent to Hopkins and to learn from their history of producing and mentoring outstanding Black scholars.
The virtual half-day event, which begins 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 25, offers opportunities for JHU affiliates to engage with a panel of faculty and senior leaders from Howard University, North Carolina A&T University, Spelman College, and Morgan State University. JHU faculty and staff interested in participating can register online.
"HBCUs are responsible for 27% of bachelor's degrees awarded to Black graduates in STEM; they have led the way in educating Black scientists and engineers," said Darlene Saporu, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at Johns Hopkins and one of the organizers of the event. "We have much to learn from them as Hopkins seeks to build a reputation that attracts and trains HBCU talent."
Jeremy Brown, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Whiting School, agrees. A graduate of Morehouse College, Brown will moderate the GradPath Initiative's panel discussion titled "Leadership Perspectives: Closing the Gaps, Opening Opportunities."
"As the product of an HBCU, I intimately understand how important these institutions are for creating opportunities for students of color to pursue their career goals and earn advanced degrees," Brown said. "Unfortunately, the success of these institutions and the students they educate often goes unnoticed outside of Black and brown communities. Events like GradPath help reshape the narrative, focusing on HBCUs' critical role in creating a pipeline of Black and brown scholars who go on to become intellectual leaders in their respective fields."
Bria Macklin, a North Carolina A&T graduate who recently completed her doctoral degree in chemical and biomolecular engineer at the Whiting School, wants to become one of those leaders. She is participating in the GradPath Collaborative's panel, "The Students' View," to underscore how the strength of her undergraduate experience led her to her current success.
"HBCU students should know that these [graduate] programs are tough but manageable. The same great study habits that they have developed at their HBCUs will take them far in grad programs," said Macklin, who plans a career in academia as a research professor. "I think it's important that HBCU students understand that they are able to thrive in these programs."
Funding for the event was provided in part by a 2020 Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study awarded to Sharon Gerecht, a professor and director of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at the Whiting School. The award seeks to advance diversity and inclusion in the sciences, and supports the creation of professional development activities and training in that area.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated the day of the event. It will take place Thursday, March 25.