Tuesday, January 14, 2020

UIS to receive a $100,000 grant aimed at developing new programs to support minority students in STEM fields

The University of Illinois Springfield will receive a five-year $100,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant aimed at developing and implementing evidence-based programs that will support the academic success of underrepresented minority (URM) students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Lucía Vázquez, associate dean of the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will serve as one of the principal investigators on the project.

“Nationwide, minorities are underrepresented in the STEM workforce; also, of the students who start as STEM majors, about 40 percent of them switch majors and 23 percent drop out of college,” said Vázquez. “Given this situation and the prediction that the demand for professionals in STEM fields will increase in the near future (based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), then it is imperative that we implement programs to promote the academic success of our minority students in these areas.”

The grant was awarded to the Illinois LSAMP STEM Pathway and Research Alliance (ILSPRA) through Chicago State University. ILSPRA is made up of a diverse group of 10 public and private universities and community colleges in urban and rural settings throughout the state of Illinois; these institutions will collaborate to achieve the objectives of this grant project.

One of the goals of the grant is to increase the participation of URM students in research through the establishment of faculty-student mentoring teams. A second goal is to provide students with academic support in gateway courses through the implementation of a learning assistant (LA) model, which has proven to be effective in increasing student performance. The end goal is to provide a variety of resources to ensure student academic success and to prepare the next generation of scientists.

At the end of the five-year project, the ILSPRA’s goal is to have significantly increased the number of URM students graduating with STEM degrees and joining the workforce or enrolling in STEM graduate programs.

“This is an imperative because there is a need to maintain the nation’s technological edge in an increasingly highly competitive global environment,” said the ILSPRA in their program summary.

In additional to developing actionable models to support URM STEM students, the ILSPRA team will also generate scholarly and peer-reviewed publications on broadening participation that will inform the entire STEM community on evidence-based practices that promote URM student success.

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