The University Record, November 9, 1998

U will get up to $2.5 million for minority graduate education

By Joel Seguine
News and Information Services

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University up to $2.5 million for a new five-year program to increase significantly the number of African American, Hispanic and Native American students receiving doctoral degrees in the sciences, mathematics and engineering (SME).

The U-M is one of eight universities to participate in the Minority Graduate Education (MGE) program, which will focus on changes in institutional, departmental and organizational culture and on practices that will result in significant increases in recruitment, retention, degree conferral and career entry, especially into academic careers, according to the NSF.

“Perhaps most important of all, these grants will help redress the serious lack of role models and mentors among higher education faculty, which research has shown constitutes a real impediment to producing minority SME graduates,” said Luther S. Williams, NSF’s director of education and human resources.

Provost Nancy Cantor has appointed Earl Lewis, vice-provost for academic affairs and dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, as principal investigator for the grant, along with Patricia Gurin, interim LS&A dean, and Stephen Director, dean of the College of Engineering, as co-principal investigators.

According to Lewis, the U-M’s effort will be comprised of three stages:

• Cultivating and recruiting a program of graduate study.

• Mentoring and professional development in graduate school.

• Launching into the postdoctoral professional career.

“This is a marvelous opportunity for the University of Michigan to address the national concern about the dramatic decrease in students of color enrolling in science and engineering programs,” Lewis said. “It is our intention to adopt a systematic approach to addressing this problem.”

According to Jesse Lewis, the NSF’s MGE coordinator, industry, government and academia all suffer from a long-standing under-utilization of minorities in these fields due to the small pool of minority talent holding Ph.Ds. “This failure to prepare and develop SME capability in such a large segment of the U.S. population is wasteful of precious human capital resources and has serious consequences for the nation’s ability to compete in a world economy driven by technological advances,” he said.

“The beauty of this grant,” said Roger Doster, the Graduate School’s director of fellowship and recruitment programs, “is that it will provide several tools to create a pipeline for increasing the recruitment of underrepresented students. It also will allow us to assist in strengthening the skills of doctoral students as they enter the University.”

Specific U-M programs funded by the NSF grant include:

• An applications-oriented summer mathematics workshop to facilitate inquiry-based learning.

• Expanded opportunities for students at other universities to have a meaningful summer research experience at the U-M.

• A “fellowships to faculty” pilot program to encourage individual faculty initiatives in recruiting minority students.

• A faculty leadership committee that will review activities and progress within SME departments, approve pilot projects and advise the departments and the Graduate School on the development of new models.

Other institutions receiving the MGE grants are University of Puerto Rico, Howard University, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia Institute of Technology, Rice University and University of Florida.

 


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