The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded nearly $1 million to two historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to study the impact of virtual mentoring on African-American students.

As part of its HBCU-Excellence in Research Award program, NSF has awarded $992,892 for a collaborative project between Morehouse College and Alabama A&M University to study virtual mentoring on 10 HBCU campuses. The project will be carried out by principal investigators at Morehouse and co-principal investigator Tonya Davis of AAMU’s Department of Social Work, Psychology and Counseling.

(ABOVE) Dr. Tonya Davis will examine virtual mentoring in HBCU undergraduates by exploring the use of avatars, formally known as “embodied conversational agents,” to provide career mentoring for undergraduates. This project will investigate the barriers faced by African-American students when deciding on pursuing advanced degrees, as well as how intelligent virtual mentors affect their decisions.

The project will also delve into the most effective way for an embodied conversational agent to interact with these specific groups of students. Findings from this study will be used to provide career mentoring for an assortment of science careers. Additionally, the findings from this research will help to build the research capacity at Morehouse and AAMU.

For additional information, contact Dr. Davis at tonya.davis@aamu.edu.