COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is visiting South Carolina this week, stopping at a historically Black university to tout what the Biden administration says is a commitment to funding nuclear engineering at such institutions around the country.
On Thursday, Granholm is set to tour the nuclear engineering program at South Carolina State University, officials told The Associated Press. Along with U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, an alumnus of the Orangeburg school, Granholm plans to discuss federal funding for programs related to science, technology, engineering and math at historically Black colleges and universities.
The visit, Granholm’s first to South Carolina as secretary, comes as President Joe Biden and other officials tout progress made in implementing the administration’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, following setbacks on other issues including voting rights and other economic efforts.
The South Carolina trip also features a roundtable discussion between Granholm and HBCU leaders, as well as a visit to Clemson University’s Wind Test Facility, which tests wind turbine drivetrains. It follows Granholm’s discussion of similar funding initiatives during trips to other HBCUs.
At Howard University in May, she announced more than $17 million in funding to support college internships, research projects and opportunities to bolster investment in underrepresented HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. According to the administration, efforts like that one underscore a commitment to helping strengthen an energy-focused pipeline from such schools.
South Carolina State is the only HBCU in the country to offer a four-year nuclear engineering program. In June, the Energy Department awarded more than $2.85 million aimed at nuclear and particle physics research trainee programs for students at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
S.C. State is often a popular stop for national-level Democrats campaigning in South Carolina, thanks in part to the area’s heavily Black and Democratic electorate, as well as its connection to Clyburn, the state’s sole congressional Democrat and the highest-ranking Black member of Congress.
Clyburn’s public endorsement of Biden ahead of South Carolina’s 2020 primary helped the then-candidate overcome a string of earlier losses, serving as an awaited signal for many Black voters that Biden would be the candidate to stand up for their interests.
But Republicans, including former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have also toured the nuclear research facilities, with Haley stopping by the school in April in one of her first public appearances since moving back to her home state and possibly ramping up for a future run at higher office.
At Clyburn’s behest, Biden gave the December commencement address to S.C. State graduates, saying he would be “proposing historic investment to create and expand HBCU programs in high-demand fields like cybersecurity, engineering and health care.”