Knowledge Sharing Center News Feature
Workshop Focused on NASA Contracting Opportunities
Event gave MSIs hands-on training
NASA Acquisition Planning Workshop
Lawson State Community College Dec. 3, 2018
By Brianna Williams
As part of the Alabama A&M University RISE Foundation’s cooperative agreement with NASA, a workshop on contract acquisition planning was held Dec. 3 at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama.
This training event featured several presentations and speakers, including Dr. Chance Glenn, executive director and president of the AAMU- RISE Foundation. Glenn also is dean of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences at Alabama A&M University. The university and the foundation are implementing a two-year initiative funded by the National Space and Aeronautics Agency to assist minority serving academic institutions generate revenue through federal contracts.
In pursuing that goal, Glenn said that three business operation cycles need to be reconciled:
- the slow pace of academia caused by the breakdown of semesters, holiday breaks, and faculty with own positions of independence;
- the moderate pace of government;
- the frantic pace of business, which is always chasing the next opportunity
“All of these things need to be reconciled in order for there to be a successful plan for going after enormous resources that are resident within the federal government, and particularly in contracting,” Glenn said.
Crediting AAMU President Dr. Andrew Hugine for creating the “RISE” acronym, which stands for Research, Innovation, Science, and Engineering, Glenn said the goal for RISE is to go after contracts as resources for the university. The organization’s success has become a model for other universities to emulate.
Clarence Bostic, the NASA MUSIC activity manager at the NASA Langley Research Center, explained how universities must take advantage of “lightning in a bottle” moments. He compared this current opportunity for MSIs to receive contractual agreements to going back in time and purchasing Apple stock at its lowest price or being an initial investor in Google.
“Do you all remember what a lightning in a bottle moment it was when they released Google stock? What if you could have bought some of that stock?" Bostic asked, adding "MUSIC was created in response to the lightning in a bottle moment of NASA including a 1 percent goal for contracts for minority serving institutions.”
MUSIC is the acronym for a component of the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). Through MUREP, NASA provides financial assistance via competitive awards to Minority Serving Institutions, or MSIs. MUSIC was created in response to NASA providing a 1 percent goal for MSI contracts.
“Institutions are largely based on tuition, grants, and the occasional donation… the other leg of that stool is contracts,” Bostic said.
Bostic believes that institutions must themselves. Toward that goal, the purpose of the workshop was to expose participants to NASA’s contracting opportunities.
Presentations explained where to find acquisition forecasting documents, what to consider when creating a capabilities briefing, how to schedule a meeting at a NASA center, as well as grant opportunities that can be used to develop a relationship with NASA while a school is transitioning into contracting.
In a virtual presentation from NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Tabisa Taliwaku Kalisa, explained where to find the NASA Acquisition Forecast documents and how to read them. Kalisa is a program manager in the Office of Small Business Programs. She used a current opportunity for a NASA Balloon Operations contract at the Wallops Flight Facility as an example.
At the end of the day, participants were given the opportunity to access the forecast documents that Kalisa discussed. Participants also were provided a worksheet to use when preparing strategic plans for marketing their capabilities to NASA based on those acquisition forecast documents.
In another presentation, Dr. Jonathan Lassiter established the importance of knowing how to create a clear and concise capabilities briefing. Lassiter, a research associate for the AAMU-RISE Foundation, discussed the purpose of a capabilities briefing along with knowing when to use a general or individual briefing.
“ A capabilities briefing is a broad and sometimes more specifically tailored presentation on expertise that might outline equipment…the abilities as well as the interests of an organization or an individual in that organization…” (Listen to his comment.)
Latonia Jones, CEO of Phenomenal Management Partners, centered her presentation on the differences between contracts and grants. PMP is the consulting firm hired by the AAMU-RISE Foundation to manage the activities of the project, as well as the foundation’s contracts with NASA.
A common mistake that many universities make is treating a contract the same as a grant. Jones says that contracts require a consistent report of time to obtain money, while contracts are more flexible and provide a lump sum with little to no consistent report of time it takes to complete work.
The consistent reporting of time and strict nature of contracts can initially cause confusion for universities, but it is a worthy investment as it is a more reliable and efficient way for universities to earn revenue.
“Their [MSIs] mindset needs to change… in order for us to do these things we need to get them out of their comfort zone,” Jones said. (Listen to her comment.)
Jones stressed that taking advantage of contracts is not only important to the 105 HBCUs in the nation, but also for the other remaining 745 MSIs.
Another featured speaker was Willie Love, who is an AAMU alumnus and business development consultant for the AAMU-RISE Foundation. Love’s presentation advised universities to focus on the NASA center that aligns with their strongest interest and capabilities. He outlined how identifying that strength leads to cultivating relationships and, ultimately, contract opportunities.
“If you can network ... your success rate goes up a lot higher.” (Listen to his comment.)
Tracey Washington highlighted NASA’s goal to hone in on increasing representation of underserved and underrepresented groups.
“We know there are institutions that need assistance … that don’t know where to begin or take advantage of award opportunities,” Washington said. (Listen to her comment.)
A program analyst at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Washington also serves as the STEM Engagement Lead and Activity Leader for MUREP.
She said that another goal of the agency is retaining and hiring interns in order to result in a more diverse workforce over time.
The next workshop in the NASA initiative is scheduled for Friday, March 22, 2019 at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama. Participants will create documents to market their college or university to the federal government.
Acquisition Planning Worksheet to use in preparing your own strategy
Another Knowledge Sharing Center news feature that may interest you:
HBCUs Should Pursue Contracts During the 22nd Annual Technical Assistance Workshop Series sponsored by the National Sponsored Programs Administrators Alliance, HBCU leaders were asked to address the most important steps that sponsored programs and research can take to reach higher levels of financial security for their institutions.
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