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UGA receives $1 million NSF grant to extend STEM minority program

Bryanna Moppins LOW RES-v
Bryanna Moppins

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia will launch a new program to increase underrepresented minority enrollment in graduate programs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Bridges to the Doctorate program, which is funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, builds on the university’s longstanding Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program. In the decade since the Peach State LSAMP was established, minority undergraduate enrollment in STEM fields at UGA has tripled. Through the new grant, students who successfully complete the undergraduate program will have an opportunity to continue their education at UGA and pursue a doctorate.

“The U.S. is at a critical inflection point with respect to its STEM workforce,” said Graduate School Dean Suzanne Barbour. “While the overall demographics of the country are changing rapidly, diversity of the STEM workforce has lagged behind. This disparity has potential to threaten our role as the global leader in STEM research and development. Programs like Bridges to the Doctorate are essential, as they will allow us to retain the best and brightest minds in the pipeline to the STEM workforce.”

Through the Bridges to the Doctorate program, 12 LSAMP alumni will receive two years of support for work toward a doctoral degree, with the remaining support coming from the department in which they study. The Bridges to the Doctorate program also offers peer and faculty mentoring, professional development, social support and outreach opportunities. The first cohort will begin their studies this summer.

The Peach State LSAMP is led by UGA and provides academic enrichment, financial support, peer and faculty mentoring, and research opportunities for students at UGA as well as those at Fort Valley State University, Kennesaw State University, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Perimeter College and Savannah State University. The program began in 2006, and a $4 million NSF grant awarded in 2016 will fund the program through 2021. Students eligible for the UGA Bridges to the Doctorate traineeship include graduates of the Peach State Alliance or any other NSF-funded LSAMP alliance throughout the country.

“The Peach State LSAMP grant has had incredible success in increasing the numbers of underrepresented students who are retained and graduate in STEM majors,” said Michelle Cook, associate provost and chief diversity officer. Cook’s office administers the Peach State LSAMP program. “Bridges to the Doctorate provides an excellent opportunity for us to leverage this success as we continue to build the pipeline from undergraduate degree, through graduate study, on into industry, research and the professoriate. These intentional and focused efforts will benefit our students, the university and the future of STEM education in the United States for years to come.”

UGA’s Bridges to the Doctorate program comes at a time when enrollment in STEM fields at the university is increasing dramatically. Twenty-one percent of all undergraduate degrees UGA awarded last year were in STEM fields, an increase of 5 percentage points over the past five years. Thirty-two percent of all Ph.D. students enrolled at UGA are in STEM disciplines, which also reflects an increase of 5 percentage points over the past five years. Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce projects growth in STEM occupations that will outpace other sectors through 2024. In addition, STEM degree holders can expect to earn at least 12 percent more than non-STEM degree holders, whether they work in STEM occupations or not.

The University of Georgia is one of the nation’s leading producers of minority graduate degree holders. Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranks UGA 13th among all U.S. universities for the number of doctoral degrees awarded to African-Americans, and in 2016 the university received two grants through the NSF INCLUDES program. In addition, UGA is collaborating on a $2 million grant from NSF’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program that seeks to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented groups in the science and engineering workforce.

“The Bridges to the Doctorate program builds on an impressive array of programming at the University of Georgia that fosters diversity and expands professional development opportunities for graduate students,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “These extraordinary programs elevate graduate education and play a vital role in keeping our state and nation at the forefront of innovation and discovery.”