Top Black STEM Educator Calls For Transformation of U.S. Higher Education

President Gregory Washington gives the address during his Investiture ceremony as the eighth president of George Mason University. Photo by: Shelby Burgess/Strategic Communications/George Mason University

Appearing on the Let’s talk STEM with Dr. Calvin Mackie podcast, George Mason University President Gregory Washington, Ph.D., urged America’s higher education institutions to educate a higher volume of students in order to prepare workers for careers in the knowledge-based, digital economy.

“The institutions of the future will be those that are access institutions that educate everyone,” Washington argues. “We have to reeducate and retrain this nation…We’re not structured to produce large numbers of graduates. We’re structured to be highly selective and to produce outcomes from highly selective people.”

Washington, who has undergrad, graduate and doctorate degrees in engineering, in 2020 became the eighth and first African American president of George Mason, Virginia’s largest and most diverse public university.

Among his academic achievements, notably in STEM, he established the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Diversity Recognition Program, currently the largest diversity recognition program for engineering colleges and schools in the nation at more than 200 universities.

Washington spoke passionately with podcast host Calvin Mackie, Ph.D., an award-winning mentor, motivational speaker and successful entrepreneur also with undergrad, graduate and doctorate degrees in engineering, about how U.S. institutions, facilities, systems and curriculums are failing to keep up with the jobs now in demand.

Washington cited the following statistics to bolster this argument:

  • Most universities in the country admit less than 40 percent of the students that apply. The two premier institutions in the state of Virginia, for example, admit less than 30 percent.
  • Six out of the top 10 jobs in demand did not exist 10 years ago. “The nation wasn’t thinking about training drone pilots or drone operators, or dealing with cryptocurrencies, and there were no Bitcoin jobs around,” he says.
  • There are 12 million unfilled jobs in the country and 10 million people unemployed who don’t qualify for the 12 million job openings. “That tells you that there’s a fundamental problem with how we’re educating and training,” Washington says.

Washington’s podcast conversation with Mackie can be viewed on YouTube at

An acclaimed African American STEM educator like Washington, Mackie is the founder of STEM NOLA, a New Orleans-based non-profit committed to expanding STEM education at churches, community centers and schools, particularly in communities of color.

This year, he founded STEM Global Action, which pursues the advancement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for children and communities everywhere.