NSF gives $5 million boost to STEM higher education in Missouri

Washington University part of statewide consortium that aims to double STEM degree attainment among underrepresented minorities

Washington University's Rochelle Smith (right) and Dedric Carter (center) help Art Hicks of the NSF's Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program announce the LSAMP grant Oct. 12 at Harris Stowe State University.
Washington University’s Rochelle Smith (right) and Dedric Carter (center) help Art Hicks of the NSF’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program announce the $5 million grant that will aid a consortium of higher education institutions in Missouri. The grant was announced Oct. 12 in St. Louis at Harris-Stowe State University.

Washington University in St. Louis is part of an alliance of Missouri institutions of higher education that recently received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund efforts to more than double underrepresented minority science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates in Missouri within five years.

The alliance, part of the NSF’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program in Missouri (MoLSAMP), includes Washington University, as well as Harris-Stowe State University; Lincoln University; the Center for Plant and Life Sciences at St. Louis Community College; Truman State University; the University of Central Missouri, the University of Missouri-Columbia; and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“It’s a significant opportunity to bring the LSAMP program to Missouri,” said Dedric Carter, vice chancellor for operations and technology transfer and co-principal investigator on the NSF grant. 

“Our state’s continued excellence in STEM requires that we grow the diversity of the students choosing and remaining in the STEM disciplines,” Carter said. “Introducing research and entrepreneurial outlets to these students will help to expand their possibilities.”

As part of MoLSAMP’s STEM retention efforts, Washington University will provide research practice opportunities and unique entrepreneurial exposure in St. Louis, as well as strategic advising, academic support and other tools to help students persist in STEM majors.

The university’s MoLSAMP-related activities will draw on the infrastructure of the Washington University Summer Engineering Fellowship program in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, administered by Emily Boyd, a principal lecturer in the department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, and the internship programs led by Rochelle Smith, assistant provost for Diversity Initiatives.

These efforts at the university will operate in concert with umbrella activities to grow STEM retention among alliance members Missouri.

According to Carter, the LSAMP grant provides an added catalyst for the important efforts already underway at the university to ensure student achievement, including a partnership with the newly created Office of Student Success, lead by assistant provost Tony Tillman, in preparing underrepresented students at Washington University for the research and practice activities offered by the alliance.

MoLSAMP aims to expand the number of underrepresented minority STEM graduates in Missouri from 283 to beyond 630 by 2021. Underrepresented minorities are identified by LSAMP as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Native Pacific Islanders.

The MoLSAMP program is the 46th such alliance in the nation. The LSAMP program provides funding to alliances that implement comprehensive, evidence-based, innovative, and sustained strategies that ultimately result in the graduation of well-prepared, highly-qualified students from underrepresented groups who pursue graduate studies or careers in STEM. The LSAMP program is in its 25th year.

The program is named for Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, who helped focus federal attention on the nation’s poor, and led a special House of Representatives investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  When Stokes retired from Congress in 1999, the Alliances for Minority Participation program was renamed the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation – or LSAMP.  Congressman Stokes passed away in 2015.

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