Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia is among the first universities in the nation to participate in a new National Science Foundation program aimed at broadening participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
The university has been named a recipient of two grants through NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science), a new program with a goal of increasing the number of individuals from underserved groups in the science and engineering workforce to sustain U.S. leadership in those disciplines.
The funding for the first grant, “An Integrated Approach to Retain Underrepresented Minority Students in STEM Disciplines,” enables UGA’s Graduate School to lead an alliance with partners at three historically black universities-Fort Valley State University, Clark Atlanta University and Savannah State University-as well as Florida International University, which is categorized as a Hispanic-serving institution. The program will include an undergraduate exchange program among the partner institutions, online learning tools and pilot intervention programs that aim to broaden the pipeline of students who are interested in pursuing graduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“This award will allow UGA to perform fundamental research to identify the barriers that limit participation of underserved individuals in STEM disciplines,” said Suzanne Barbour, dean of the Graduate School and principal investigator of the grant. “Given the changing demographics of our nation, engagement of such individuals is essential to ensure that the U.S. remains the global leader in STEM research.”
According to NSF data, about 5 percent of people awarded doctoral degrees in STEM fields are African-American and about 6 percent are Hispanic, although about 13 percent of the U.S. population is African-American and about 17 percent is Hispanic.
For the past decade, the NSF-funded Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation at UGA has helped increase minority enrollment in STEM fields at the undergraduate level. Since the Peach State LSAMP program began in 2006, minority enrollment in STEM fields at UGA has increased from 399 in 2006 to 1,143 in 2015. The number of Bachelor of Science degrees earned by underrepresented minorities in STEM has quadrupled from 56 in 2006 to 214 in 2015, and UGA recently received a $4 million grant renewing the program for another five years.
The overall number of STEM degrees conferred by UGA has risen in recent years from nearly 16 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in 2011 to 21 percent in 2015. Approximately 40 percent of all Ph.D. students at UGA are in STEM disciplines.
“The Peach State LSAMP grant has aided the University of Georgia in strengthening and growing the pipeline of underrepresented students who are successfully completing degrees in STEM,” said Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost for institutional diversity. “The INCLUDES grants will enable us to build upon and expand the institution’s contribution to broadening participation in science, technology, engineering and math.”
UGA received a second INCLUDES grant aimed at preparing graduate students who plan to pursue faculty positions in higher education to promote the success of underrepresented students in undergraduate STEM fields.
Through this grant, UGA will participate in a national study led by the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning to determine the best interventions to prepare graduate students to become faculty members in a variety of settings with diverse undergraduate populations. The program will include workshops, mentoring and courses aimed at training graduate students for their future roles as mentors and educators of STEM students.
In addition, UGA and eight other CIRTL institutions will work together on a study funded by a $2 million grant from NSF’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate. The partnership will seek to enhance the academic career pathways of historically underrepresented doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in STEM and STEM education research fields through the implementation of evidence-based models and practices across multiple universities.
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten noted that the three recent NSF grants the university has received are part of a broader effort to make UGA the institution of choice for the world’s most promising graduate students. The three-pronged initiative to elevate graduate education includes new funding opportunities, an emphasis on creating interdisciplinary programs and expanded professional development opportunities.
“The advanced knowledge and skills that graduate education provides are vital in today’s innovation economy,” Whitten said. “STEM fields in particular have seen significant growth at UGA, and the support of the National Science Foundation is helping accelerate that trend.”
NSF Director France Córdova noted that, “For more than six decades, NSF has funded the development of STEM talent, with the goals of furthering scientific discovery and ensuring the nation’s security, economy and ability to innovate. NSF INCLUDES aims to broaden participation in STEM by reaching populations traditionally underserved in science and engineering. I’m gratified to see such a strong start to this program, which we hope will be an enduring investment in our nation’s future in scientific discovery and technological innovation.”
Among the UGA faculty members engaged in the INCLUDES efforts are Barbour; Cook; Judy Milton, assistant dean of the Graduate School, who is principal investigator of the second grant; Tim Burg, director of the Office of STEM Education; Juan B. Gutierrez, associate professor of mathematics; Jonathan Arnold, professor of genetics and graduate coordinator of the Institute of Bioinformatics; Angela Birkes-Grier, director of the Peach State LSAMP program; Manuel González Canché, assistant professor of higher education; Pedro R. Portes, professor, Goizueta Foundation Distinguished Chair in Latino Teacher Education and executive director of the Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education; Erin L. Richman, director of academic partnerships and initiatives in the Division of Student Affairs; Dawn T. Robinson, professor of sociology; Joachim Walther, associate professor of engineering and winner of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers; and Dorothy Y. White, associate professor of mathematics and science education.
On the AGEP study, Milton serves as principal investigator for UGA, and she is joined on the team by Diana Downs, professor of microbiology, and Kecia Thomas, senior associate dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and professor of industrial/organizational psychology and African-American studies.