by Gail Hairston
(April 14, 2014) — University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, as the principal investigator, will lead a multi-million-dollar initiative with Kentucky and West Virginia universities to increase underrepresented undergraduates studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The five-year, $2.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant establishes the Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KY-WV LSAMP) in the STEM disciplines. Coordinated by the UK Office for Institutional Diversity and UK’s co-PI and engineering Associate Professor Johné Parker, the alliance of nine institutions of higher learning includes UK, University of Louisville, West Virginia University, Western Kentucky University, Centre College, Marshall University, Kentucky State University, West Virginia State University and Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
With an undergraduate focus, the grant will fund programs and initiatives at the alliance members’ institutions to increase diversity in the STEM fields. The alliance has the potential of significantly impacting the lives of up to 5,000 underrepresented undergraduate students in the two Appalachian states. Programs will be developed at the member institutions to attract greater numbers of diverse students to the STEM fields, increase retention and graduate up to 500 students over the next five years.
“The University of Kentucky is proud to lead an alliance of exceptional public and private colleges and universities in our region,” Capilouto said. “The LSAMP initiative provides rich opportunities that we hope will excite more underrepresented students to explore, delve into, and thrive in academic and research programs in STEM fields. Their increased participation will stimulate and improve the alliance institutions' outcomes in disciplines critical to the future of our state, our region and the nation.”
Projected goals are:
- To increase minority student enrollment in the STEM fields alliance-wide by 15 percent by 2016 with a 10 percent to 20 percent increase yearly thereafter.
- To increase the 4-5 year graduation rate for minority STEM majors alliance-wide by 50 percent or above and maintaining or increasing this rate thereafter.
Reaching the LSAMP goals by 2018 will translate into 260 or more STEM baccalaureate graduates among the nine universities each year.
"This partnership — one that brings together strong, though different institutions — creates wonderful opportunities for young people who might otherwise miss such a chance to do research and learn about first-rate higher education. Centre College — with its shared commitment to high quality and high opportunity — is honored to play a role in the lives of these young men and women," said Centre College President John A. Roush.
"Forming alliances is crucial in today's world, and it is an honor for West Virginia University to be part of this innovative and collaborative partnership with various institutions in West Virginia and Kentucky," said WVU President E. Gordon Gee. "LSAMP is a project that mirrors our university's commitment to diversity and research. We stand firmly in line with LSAMP's goals to increase minority enrollment in the STEM fields, in addition to improving retention and graduation rates for underrepresented students."
While each campus will be evaluating and improving its own programs, they will be collaborating, sharing information and ideas, as an alliance. The first KY-WV LSAMP alliance-wide conference “along with others involved as appropriate” will be held at UK in the 2014-15 academic year, said UK Vice President for Institutional Diversity Judy “JJ” Jackson. Jackson is also an associate professor of educational policy studies and evaluation.
Jackson recently completed site visits to all alliance member campuses to learn how each is structured and to gain valuable insight and feedback. The alliance will seek out cross-institutional opportunities for students in undergraduate research and internships.
“We can only imagine what we can achieve with $2.5 million to mine the talents of the promising young people across the alliance. This investment will have a multi-generational impact on the future of this region,” Jackson said.
“The impact on students will help to define the future of these institutions and this geographical area. The people of this region are coming increasingly to believe in their potential for greatness,” said Jackson. “We will be constructing our future success without the bias of economic status, skin color, gender, religion...”
The goals are ambitious, but the KY-WV LSAMP universities plan to reach them with strategic recruiting and intentional focus on senior year attrition. National studies show that underrepresented minority students enroll as STEM majors at the same rate as their counterparts, but graduate at significantly lower rates. The project abstract asserts that the key to retention will be the provision of timely and effective individual support as needed, based on real-time tracking and both faculty- and peer-mentoring.
The NSF Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program’s aim is to grow a greater number of diverse students to successfully compete in the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) baccalaureate degree programs, and to increase the number of students interested in, and academically prepared to matriculate into graduate study programs. LSAMP supports sustained and comprehensive efforts that facilitate achievement of the long-term goal of increasing the number of students who earn doctorates in STEM fields, particularly those from populations underrepresented in STEM fields. The program defines under-represented groups as African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.