Campus News

Higher intentions

$4.9 million NSF grant will encourage minority participation in science

With a $4.9 million grant from the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, a program of the National Science Foundation, the University of Georgia will lead an alliance of six state colleges and universities in Georgia that aims to boost the number of underrepresented minorities who receive bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

The purpose of the five-year initiative-in collaboration with Bainbridge College, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Perimeter College, Savannah State University and Southern Polytechnic University-is to double, during the agreement period, the number of underrepresented minority students in Georgia who complete undergraduate degrees in STEM.

UGA will serve as the lead institution and fiscal agent for the grant and program (to be known as the Peach State LSAMP), which will be administered jointly by Dean Maureen Grasso of UGA’s Graduate School and Associate Provost Keith Parker of UGA’s Office of Institutional Diversity.

“The University System has made increasing access to higher education for underrepresented segments of the state’s population a priority,” says University System Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith. “We encourage our institutions to collaborate and combine resources to broaden access. This National Science Foundation grant recognizes the ability of our campuses to work together to create a solid program targeted toward minorities in some key fields of study.”

Beginning this fall, UGA and its partners will collaborate on projects to prepare African Americans, Hispanic Americans and other underrepresented minorities for careers in STEM fields. The goal of the collaborative effort is to increase minority enrollment and retention in STEM fields at the participating institutions from 560 to 1,120 students during the five-year period.

“Improving educational participation of minorities is a major state issue, and even more so in the fields of science, technology and mathematics,” says UGA President Michael F. Adams. “This grant allows the University of Georgia, working with five of its sister institutions, an opportunity to greatly enhance minority participation in these fields that are so important to the state’s success in the 21st century. I am pleased that we are collaborating with our colleagues toward this important goal.”

LSAMP is part of a nationwide effort by NSF to increase the number of minority students successfully completing STEM baccalaureate degree programs and to increase the number of minority students interested in and academically prepared to pursue graduate study in math and science.

The flagship NSF program is conducted with full congressional approval and authorization, according to A. James Hicks, LSAMP program director at NSF.

“Diversity is a part of America’s strength,” Hicks says. “And if America is to remain pre-eminent in the STEM fields, it must make use of its diversity.”

The program will address issues that affect student success in core STEM courses and build on existing successful drop-in tutoring programs; expand existing programs of supplemental instruction by peers; encourage alliance institutions to host an annual undergraduate research conference; and improve the faculty and graduate-student mentoring that undergraduate summer research student participants receive.

During the five-year period, the PSLSAMP partner institutions will select eligible students and pair them with faculty mentors who will assist them in research efforts. Each campus will hold conferences and symposia for faculty mentors, host research fairs for participating students and design activities for pre-collegiate students. A statewide research fair will be held in conjunction with Clark Atlanta University, which also has a grant from NSF’s LSAMP.