JSU to sign pact to become business contractor under NASA Mentor-Protégé program


Jackson State University will become the nation’s first HBCU to enter into a mentor-protégé agreement under NASA’s Shared Services Center (NSSC) that will provide JSU with training and tools to become a major business contractor.

The signing ceremony will be at 1 p.m. Thursday in the atrium of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, with a consent that will allow JSU to bid, issue proposals and subcontract projects. The event will signal the start of a partnership between JSU and its mentor, Enterprise Services, LLC, formerly HP.

Their union was made possible through NSSC, which aims to provide “timely, accurate, high-quality, cost-effective and customer-focused support for selected NASA business and technical services,” according to NSSC.

The goal of the collaboration is to position JSU as a competitive prime contractor in the future. Ultimately, the HBCU is expected to realize its potential to drive economic development throughout the world.

NASA LOGOWhile bolstering its reputation as a key business operative, JSU simultaneously will create an environment for faculty, staff and students to learn and grow. JSU also aims to harness its academic credentials and skill set to benefit the broader community. Thus, all stakeholders would be able witness the university become a major portal for economic activity in national and international research and development.

University personnel will receive training for developing competencies in gross strategy and marketing assessments; business development planning and strategy; capture management; and all aspects of program/project management. Other benefits to JSU would include generating revenue and enhancing curricula, infrastructure and personnel.

As well, JSU foresees its scientific and innovation platforms as excellent models for equipping students to develop state-of-the-art technology as they prepare to enter the workforce.

Dr. Joseph Whittaker, JSU’s associate provost, said JSU is on the cusp of a seismic opportunity.

Whittaker said, “This is a game-changer. As a university, our job is not just to leverage knowledge, capital and capability of faculty in terms of scientific power, but we must be able to market our capabilities. It’s essential that we learn how to create business development practices and engage stakeholders outside the university.”

To sustain its successes, Whittaker said it’s vital that JSU understands how business is conducted by learning requirements and opportunities for engaging in contract negotiations.

“It’s essential that we learn how to create business development practices and engage stakeholders outside the university.” — Dr. Joseph Whittaker, JSU’s associate provost“The mentor-protégé arrangement will put JSU in a position where our corporate partner, Enterprise Services, will train and help us to cultivate a business strategy for the future. This will also help JSU’s corporate and business development side so that we know how to market our capabilities and play in the same space with companies and corporations,” Whittaker said.

Essentially, JSU would become less dependent on grants as it develops and showcases its prowess as a viable contractor.

“We will serve a greater purpose for the federal government and federal agencies, and – as an HBCU – we have to move away from this idea of just going after set-aside money,” Whittaker said.

Whittaker said NASA already has to contract out a lot of business, so it’s crucial for JSU to have a presence. He credits NSSC’s Troy E. Miller, a Small Business specialist, for aggressively advocating, supporting and building JSU’s mentor-protégé partnership.

The potential for JSU is enormous on so many levels that entities already have begun calling the urban HBCU for a seat at the table for future opportunities, Whittaker said.

“After we learn from our mentor, we will be able to hold our own and become private contractors,” Whittaker said.

“We will be able to do business as a university, take the lead in major business decisions, biddings and proposals. We’ll even be able to subcontract to someone else – a big company or another university. We must be seen as a major competitor who’s qualified to accomplish things.”