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“The Importance and Impact of Florida A&M University and HBCU’s” | Florida A&M University President Dr. Larry Robinson | October 27, 2020

“We also had a record year in the number of patents and at some point those patents will likely be licensed and generate small business and companies that employ people.” 

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University President Dr. Larry Robinson explains how the school set a record in research funding and new patents last year, and the link between research innovation and economic development in Florida, before an October 27, 2020 meeting of The Economic Club of Florida.

Show notes

U.S. News and World Report in September 2020 ranked Florida A&M number one for the second year in a row among public HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the country.  The magazine also ranked the school 20th in social mobility of students.

“To me, this is a true measure of the institution’s impact on otherwise bright students who come to us with significant economic challenges but leave us with the prospects of gainful employment and/or being well-prepared to pursue post-baccalaureate graduate and professional educational opportunities,” said Dr. Robinson.  About one in three students are the first generation in their family to attend college.

Over the past decade, Florida A&M University or FAMU, as it’s also known, has been making an accelerated impact on Florida’s economy, too.  In 2019, the school set a record of $60 million in extra research funding and a record number of new patents as well.  As part of FAMU’s new strategic plan, Dr. Robinson said FAMU is increasing its partnerships with the private sector, impacting economic development.  These include:

  • $1.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop its own COVID-19 virus testing laboratory to coordinate with other Florida HBCUs;
  • Another $1.5 million donation of COVID-19 diagnostic equipment, test kits, and supplies from Thermo Fisher Scientific Company;
  • A 25-year land lease at an average $1 million a year to Duke Energy for a future 74.9 megawatt solar electricity farm in Brooksville;
  • The Hemp Project, a partnership with two private companies to help plant and cultivate six varieties of hemp plant for commercial applications;
  • $100,000 in scholarships and debt payments as part of a $1 million Bank of America jobs initiative partnership;
  • Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits’ Social Injustice and Racial Inequality Endowed Scholarship Fund that will fund four scholarships a year for five years;

In his address, Dr. Robinson noted additional significant public funding to date as well.  Florida A&M has received $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Engineering College to increase the diversity of students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs.   The school has also been making capital improvements on campus, including the recently opened 700-bed FAMU Towers residence hall, provided by HBCU-designated federal funds.  The local Intergovernmental Blueprint agency recently awarded $10 million for Bragg Stadium renovations.   The school’s Medical Marijuana Education Research Initiative is funded through the state’s medical marijuana program.

In all, Dr. Robinson said FAMU has generated 135,000 jobs and had a nearly $15 billion economic impact locally in Tallahassee, Florida and regionally.

“Despite the historical challenges that we’ve had and current challenges of being under-resourced, the impacts of HBCUs and FAMU in every area of our society is really incredible…and your support and leadership in providing advocacy on behalf of HBCUs and FAMU will allow us to continue to do this great work,” Dr. Robinson told The Economic Club of Florida members.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

The Economic Club of Florida podcast, provides an extended platform for discussion to educate, engage, and empower citizens on important economic, political, and social issues. Based in Tallahassee, Florida, the Club has featured distinguished speakers on engaging topics of national importance since 1977. To learn more, including how to become a member, visit or call 850-224-0711 or email [email protected].

Date of recording: 10/27/2020