Hundreds of educators and agencies that support education from around the country converged on the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington D.C. on Sept. 26-27 for the 2012 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference.

Workshops were held on everything from the role of HBCUs in international development to how the colleges can enhance their relationship with the federal government. The keynote speaker at the Sept. 26 luncheon was William H. Gray III, chairman of Gray Global Strategies, Inc. The former Pennsylvania congressman and previous president of the United Negro College Fund told the audience that the HBCUs must market themselves effectively to enhance their fundraising efforts. At UNCF, he said, he improved fundraising by having students to tell their stories about how various institutions helped them to achieve, instead of asking for money on behalf of the organization or schools.

In one panel, experts discussed driving science, technology, engineer and math (STEM) opportunities for liberal arts colleges into high gear. The UNCF Special Programs Corp. is working on a Building Green Initiative to create sustainable minority-serving campuses across the country.

According to Felicia Davis, director of the Building Green Initiative, the UNCF Special Programs Corp. program is “building a robust HBCU Energy Collaborative that will foster relationships leading to upgrading campus facilities, which will produce significant energy and financial savings.” Toyota is a partner in the program and is working with the Black college organization to identify and award “green ambassadors” at 27 HBCU campuses with monetary stipends, Davis said.

The conference was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.