VUU to get $2 million in federal funding for new research center

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia Union University (VUU) is set to receive $2 million in the upcoming federal budget to help fund a new research center, an effort led by university president Hakim Lucas and Senator Tim Kaine.

The new Technology and Innovation Center was announced earlier this year in partnership with Paragon VTOL Aerospace, a drone company focused on commercial and medical uses of new technology.

“Transportation is where we want to lead next,” Lucas said at a Friday event with Sen. Kaine announcing the federal funding proposal. He added that other goals of the research center would include cybersecurity and education technology.

Dr. Ahkinyala Cobb-Abdullah, Dean of Arts and Sciences at VUU, shows Senator Kaine a lab room. (Photo: Jacob Cordes)

The $2 million in federal funds was made possible through the revival of an old policy tool: the earmarked dollar.

According to Kaine, earmarks — budget items defined by Congress that set aside fixed amounts for specific projects — fell out of favor around 2008 because they had been used to channel funds to projects run by friends and family of lawmakers. , as well as for projects. from the home districts of lawmakers – known as hog barrel spending.

But Kaine said the practice has seen a revival in recent years as a way to capture local interests in the budget process.

“Sometimes rural communities or minority communities just don’t get attention, but with assignments they do,” Kaine said.

There have, however, been some changes to the process – mostly centered around transparency and accountability.

“If I apply for an assignment, I have to put everything I apply on my website so that any voter — college president, journalist, mayor — can watch,” Kaine said.

You can view a full breakdown of the affected funds requested by Kaine on its website.

Lucas said the upcoming budget will also mark a historic milestone for VUU, “This is the first time a senator has designated us as an assignment.”

This inclusion was in part due to Kaine’s deep ties to the University and the Richmond area. Kaine hosted the VUU basketball team at Governor’s Mansion after entering the Division 2 Final Four in 2006, and is a regular attendee of the school’s homecoming party.

“[He] lives around the corner and can walk to every band song we play,” Lucas said.

However, funding is not yet done. Kaine warned that if Democrats lose the House in November, the budget could be delayed.

“I think the probability is low,” he added. “I think we have a good chance of retaining the majority.”

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