The Timbuktu Academy is named after the former University of Timbuktu, a bastion of scholarship in the middle of this millennium. The city of Timbuktu, in Mali, West Africa, is located on the banks of the majestic Niger river. Southern University and A&M College, in Baton Rouge, is likewise located on the banks of the mighty Mississippi.
The Timbuktu Academy was first established in 1990, pursuant to funding from the Louisiana Stimulus for Excellence in Research (LaSER) and from the National Science Foundation ( NSF ). LaSER is administered by the Louisiana Board of Regents. The first projects of the Timbuktu Academy respectively funded by LaSER and NSF were "Materials Science Education and Research (MASER)" and "Research Careers for Minority Scholars (RCMS)" at the Timbuktu Academy. In the same academic year, the Summer Science Institute (SSI) was re-established, thanks in part to funding from the US Department of Energy through the SLTBR Center for Energy and Environmental Studies. From 1992 to present, the Physics Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has supported the Academy.
From 1990-91 to 1992-93, the Timbuktu Academy was strictly for mentoring physics majors. The RCMS project involved twenty (20) undergraduate Scholars and the MASER project supported five precollege Scholars and five (5) college Scholars. Two of the first MASER scholars (Robert J. Smith and Troy D. Williams) won the national NASA USRP fellowships at the Timbuktu Academy About twenty (20) 11th graders participated in the Summer Science Institute.
In the 1992-93 academic year, Dr. Robert Ford provided Dr. Bagayoko, the Director of the Timbuktu Academy, with special Department of Defense (DoD) proposal guidelines that were calling for insfrastructure enhancements at Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Research and training programs were both allowed by these guidelines. Considering the strength of the Summer Science Institute, led by Dr. Ella L. Kelley, and taking into account the mentoring track record of Dr. Reza Mirshams, Dr. Bagayoko formed a group of three to submit a proposal to DoD for expanding the Timbuktu Academy, to include:
"Luck is often the result of preparation meeting, recognizing, and acting on opportunity"