North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Engineering Research and Innovation Complex (ERIC) will be a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary and multifunctional facility for academics, research and community engagement, which will provide the technology, environment and education necessary to meet the global challenges of tomorrow.
With an investment of $90 million from the Connect NC bond referendum, the ERIC will transform the speed in which ideas are put into practice and in which knowledge is transferred from academia to industry and government through shared facilities that enable the cross-pollination of ideas between interdisciplinary researchers. The complex will host experiential learning and prototyping laboratories and studios, distance learning facilities, and modern learning spaces designed for hands-on practice and innovation.
Why is this particular project important to North Carolina A&T?
“Rooted in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) principles, N.C. A&T has consistently ranked as a top producer of African American men and women engineers on the undergraduate level. As advances are made in STEM, N.C. A&T has to also advance so that the university, its students, faculty and alumni will remain relevant in the global marketplace.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that occupations related to STEM will grow by about 13 percent between 2012 and 2022, compared to 11 percent for all other industries – with a need for one million more STEM professionals over the next decade than the U.S. is projected to produce. The ERIC at N.C. A&T will provide the state-of-the-art facilities needed to support the interdisciplinary research efforts that will provide students and faculty with hands-on experiences needed to make a lasting, positive impact in the region and around the globe.”
How does the selected project help meet your stated educational goals?
“N.C. A&T is steadfast in its mission as an 1890 land-grant doctoral research university dedicated to learning, discovery and community engagement with an emphasis on preeminence in STEM. In 2011, the university outlined success in its strategic plan, A&T Preeminence 2020. That plan includes six goals: creating an intellectual climate that encourages the creative exchange of ideas and increases the quality of the professional environment; a commitment to excellence in teaching, research, public service and engagement; positioning the university to be a national, premier research-intensive, doctoral, science and technology-focused learning institution; embracing an entrepreneurial spirit that intentionally engages university and community partners to expand economic development and civic engagement; fostering a more diverse and inclusive campus community by promoting cultural awareness, collegiality, and by cultivating respect for diverse people and cultures; and achieving excellence in academic and operational effectiveness and efficiency.
The construction of the ERIC will allow N.C. A&T, the Piedmont Triad’s only STEM-focused university, to thoughtfully and intentionally build upon the progress being made toward achieving the goals outlined in N.C. A&T’s strategic plan.”
What impact will completion of the project have beyond the campus?
“Completion of the ERIC will impact the Piedmont Triad region, the state of North Carolina, the nation and the world in three ways – it will provide a return on investment that will enlarge the university’s economic impact to the region and the state, it will create jobs, and it will establish a pipeline of diverse STEM leaders.
N.C. A&T has posted an economic impact on the Piedmont Triad region of $656.2 million and nearly $1 billion on the state of North Carolina. Completion of the ERIC will aid in the recruitment and retention of some of the world’s most high-achieving and highly motivated STEM students and educators to N.C. A&T and the Piedmont Triad, driving increased research and innovation, which could also attract diverse businesses and industries in need of qualified STEM employees.
The ERIC will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and development both in the short and long term, helping to foster partnerships with local and regional industries, creating job opportunities that directly benefit the entire local community, as companies seek to meet the demands of tomorrow.
Women and minority engineers are drastically under produced in our nation. Underrepresented minorities make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, and earned 12.5 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees. N.C. A&T has the distinction of being the leading producer of African American and African American women engineers in the nation. With consistent enrollment in the College of Engineering and a growing need for engineers from diverse backgrounds, the ERIC will affirm N.C. A&T’s position in the marketplace by providing the necessary space to accommodate the increasing number of engineering students and to support their respective research interests.”
What other benefits of the bond package would you like to discuss?
“Connect NC will make vital investments in water and sewer infrastructure, parks and higher education institutions that will not only give North Carolina a return on investment, it will pay dividends for years to come. This public investment of $383 million into the Piedmont Triad communicates the message to private investors and industries that the state of North Carolina and its residents are committed to the Piedmont Triad’s economic growth and development.”