NSF donates $ 3 million to the University of Michigan-led Diversity-in-STEM program

ANN ARBOR – To help increase the number of black, Latin American, and indigenous students in science, engineering, technology, and math, the Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation’s National Science Foundation has pledged $ 3 million.

The federal funding will ensure the program, led by the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, continues for an additional five years. MI-LSAMP has graduated over 7,500 minority students in Michigan.

The Michigan Alliance program is one of dozen of similar programs across the country attempting to bring students from historically excluded communities into STEM areas.

“There are so many talent out there, and we’re not tapping into that entire talent pool,” said the UM professor of diversity and social transformation and current senior co-principal investigator, Herbert Winful, in a press release. “We have to pull out all the stops to attract more people of color to the MINT disciplines.”

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Other institutions participating in the venture include Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, Mott Community College, and Washtenaw Community College.

Programs offered to minority students through MI-LSAMP for the past 15 years include summer transition programs, peer support, counseling and mentoring, and research opportunities. Workshops often focus on career building, social media branding, leadership, and resilience.

According to a UM release, MI-LSAMP will focus on the following areas over the next five years:

  • Continuation and expansion of summer bridge programs that have been shown to strengthen academic performance and loyalty in the first year.

  • Support and expansion of the Alliance’s NxtGEN STEM Scholars Program, which provides guidance from multiple institutions at every step of the student’s academic path.

  • Expanding Summer Research Opportunities in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program – an offering that has been proven to increase the likelihood of students completing postgraduate education.

  • Integrating MI-LSAMP with the wider range of student support services and resources offered by partner institutions to create new synergies / partnerships and leverage economies of scale to support historically excluded students.

“Whenever a complex system creates relatively stable imbalances over a long time horizon, the design of the system must be approached to improve results,” said Matthew Nelson, MI-LSAMP’s interim managing director, in a press release. “The university’s commitment to using MI-LSAMP to rethink how underrepresented minority students are supported in STEM is a big step in the right direction.”

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According to the NSF Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Technology, a lack of diversity in STEM areas leads to a lack of standpoint that percolates each discipline.

“In order to solve critical scientific and social challenges such as illness, hunger, poverty and security, different perspectives are necessary,” said a statement by the committee. “STEM leaders from underrepresented groups … people with disabilities and women offer the different cultural perspectives necessary to solve the broad spectrum of human problems.”

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