Texas A&M HPRC builds computing partnerships with community colleges

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Texas A&M High Performance Research Computing (HPRC) recently worked with two Texas community colleges to promote building research partnerships through a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project.

HPRC partnered with South Plains College and San Jacinto College to offer the first Building Research Innovations at Community Colleges (BRICCs) workshop. BRICCs is an innovative pr­oject that explores ways to improve the computing divide in higher education.

“We have been aware of communities that are actively working in this space, but have lacked a forum for them to share their work. BRICCs’ focus is to fill this pivotal role” said Dhruva Chakravorty, HPRC’s associate director for user services and research and principal investigator for the NSF grant. 

The workshop focused on computing technology deployments as well as academic and research initiatives that would benefit from these technologies. With the objective of facilitating communications between these communities, the workshop was structured to offer opportunities to learn about the technical, administrative and academic aspects of this challenge. South Plains College hosted the workshop in conjunction with the annual Texas Association of Community Colleges meeting of chief information officers (CIOs) at its Levelland campus.

James Van Howell, associate dean of information services at South Plains College, and co-organizer of the workshop said, “Community colleges and research are not terms that customarily go together. However, students are now facing requirements to expand their knowledge in an empirical way. All community college students, vocational technical, liberal arts and STEM will need research skills to be successful. I think the value of this workshop was the collaboration of colleges who are actively teaching research practices with schools who are just starting their journey.”  

Stressing the need for platforms that help the various groups communicate and share resources, Sarah Janes, associate vice chancellor, continuing and professional development at San Jacinto College, said, “As community colleges begin to understand the need for all levels within a workforce sector to have some digital skills including some ability to understand what data tells them, the colleges will need to offer modules focused on these skills. Communication within colleges in which all workforce programs are involved will be paramount to developing these modules without redundancy but with more efficiency and effectiveness throughout the college programs. Those who attended the BRICCs workshop were made aware of this basic communication need.”

More than 100 participants from across the nation attended the hybrid in-person and virtual workshop. Participants included faculty, administrators, CIOs and information-technology professionals at two-ye­ar and four-year institutions, along with representatives from industry and non-profits. 

Stakeholders representing various communities and programs with overlapping interests in this space spoke about their programs and discussed foreseeable needs­­ and opportunities for collaboration. 

To learn more about BRICCs and participate in future events, please visit the BRICCs website at hprc.tamu.edu/briccs