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NSF Grant To Recruit Minority Students Into STEM Fields

Pipeline to the Future

NSF Grant To Recruit Minority Students Into STEM Fields

The National Science Foundation has awarded $3 million over five years to an alliance of upstate colleges and universities—including Rensselaer—to enroll and graduate more minority students from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs.

In response to pressing local needs and national goals, the Upstate Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (ULSAMP) was formed to attract and maximize the potential of students from African American, Latino American, and Native American (AALANA) populations.

President Shirley Ann Jackson has long warned of what she has dubbed a “Quiet Crisis” in America—the threat to the capacity of the United States to innovate due to reduced support for research and the looming shortage in the nation’s STEM workforce. The impending workforce shortfall results from a record number of retirements on the horizon in the STEM fields, and not enough students in the pipeline to replace them.

“Our demographics have shifted in the United States,” President Jackson says. “The ‘new majority’ now comprises young women and the racial and ethnic groups which, traditionally, have been underrepresented in STEM disciplines. It is these ‘nontraditional’ young people to whom we also must look for our future scientists and engineers.”

The ULSAMP program will achieve its goals through a two-pronged approach—implemented across the alliance—that includes enhancing recruitment of both first-time freshmen and transfer students, and by providing new opportunities to enhance the graduation rate of the targeted populations. In addition to Rensselaer, member institutions include Clarkson University, Cornell University, Monroe Community College, Onondaga Community College, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Syracuse University.

“We need to prepare today’s students for the 21st century economy with a technological focus in mind,” says Kenneth Durgans, vice provost for institute diversity at Rensselaer, who also serves as one of the principal investigators for the project. “Effectively using technology in the 21st century is important for full participation in America’s economic, political, and social life. The goals of the grant will provide students, particularly minorities who are underrepresented in the fields, with the programs and mentoring opportunities that will inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology.”

Rensselaer will receive $420,000 over a period of five years. The funding will support a comprehensive array of academic, research, and support programs for undergraduate students.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.