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Hampton University president named ambassador of U.S. Energy Program

Jordan Crawford | 2/6/2014, 10:38 a.m.
William Harvey will serve as ambassadors for the Minorities in Energy Initiative.

Hampton University (HU) received high accolades Friday from President Obama’s point man on energy, who cited high-tech initiatives on campus and a new role for the school’s leader.

HU President William Harvey will serve as one of several ambassadors for the Minorities in Energy Initiative, said U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Harvey joins a group that includes 2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri and Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico.

Moniz made the announcement in a speech to students and faculty after touring campus. He visited Jefferson Lab earlier in the day.

His trip to the Peninsula followed the State of the Union speech Tuesday where the president made mention of an “all of the above” energy policy. However, Moniz said that generalized approach must still take into account climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.

“We must support the development of the technologies and the policies that will allow all of our fuel sources to be competitive in a future low-carbon environment,” he said.

Moniz, a nuclear physicist and former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, visited HU’s Proton Therapy Institute and met with a select group of students, whose majors included physics, mathematics and biological sciences, before addressing the larger group.

He said the university’s evolution into a world-class research institution is really a fantastic journey, and it’s exactly the journey the school needs more of. He then delivered a pep talk of sorts on the benefits of seeking a career in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

STEM careers can mean greater upward mobility for individuals, and as a nation “it has to be our competitive edge,” he said.

With 17 national laboratories, the Department of Energy (DOE) is a “science and technology powerhouse,” he said. “But going forward, that means we need a really good science and technology workforce.”

The students greeted him warmly, and later tossed out questions that were a testament to their studies. One asked how DOE was dealing with environmental and safety risks in the field of nano-technology, for example.

Kai Bracey, a student who met with Moniz before the speech, asked how to reach younger people about the value of STEM so the country can lay down the innovation foundation we need to be efficient in the future.

Moniz brought up one simple experiment for young people. Compare an incandescent light bulb with an LED bulb. He said the incandescent bulb is really a heat bulb while the other is not.

“In other words, it’s very efficient,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harvey said he hopes to use his new role as ambassador to discuss a number of issues. He wants to continue HU’s push toward campus-wide geothermal systems to provide heating and cooling, replacing coal. He failed in a pitch to Moniz’s predecessor, Steven Chu, but hasn’t given up on it.

His other priority is to change the face of the DOE work force.

“There is a dearth of minorities in the work force of the Department of Energy,” he said. “We need to do more.”

Harvey said he believed his persistence paid off with the ambassador appointment.

“You know the squeaky wheel syndrome,” he said with a smile. “But I think it’s good because it gives me another platform.”