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IU Northwest to increase number of STEM degrees among minority students

Indiana University Northwest is among six universities partnering in a multi-campus grant awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to significantly increase the number of statewide African Americans, Hispanics and other historically underrepresented minorities receiving baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) will lead the $4.8 million Indiana STEM Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) initiative. Other alliance partners, in addition to IU Northwest, are IU Bloomington, Ball State University, IU South Bend and Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis.

IU Northwest’s share of the grant is $470,000 and will be administered over the next five years. The effort is led by Professor Bhaskara Kopparty. chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems.

Kopparty said the work will begin in mid-December with the grant providing funding to support the completion and graduation of current students and new admissions in the programs of biology, chemistry, mathematics, actuarial science, computer information systems, informatics, geosciences and the newly approved program in biochemistry.

“Through this grant we plan to support several initiatives, including peer mentoring, transfer student support and faculty-mentored research,” Kopparty said. “For example, we plan to introduce telephone tutoring in all STEM areas, a first-of-its-kind program for Northwest Indiana. We also plan to host a variety of opportunities for local high school students, including summer bridge programs and preparation for the math placement tests.”

Kopparty said that by being a partner in this LSAMP grant, IU Northwest has once again established itself as a leader in promoting STEM education among diverse populations. Kopparty is also the principal investigator of another NSF-funded grant, Advancing Indiana Math and Science (AIMS) that is providing scholarships and support activities for STEM education.

About the alliance

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSMAP) program is designed to substantially increase the quantity and quality of students, especially underrepresented students, who study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines. LSAMP offers science and math majors the opportunity to receive a stipend for doing research in their major field.

The alliance will implement an array of measures to double the number of STEM degrees awarded to minority students at alliance institutions from 295 in the baseline year 2013-14 to 590 in the fifth year of the initiative.

To achieve the 100 percent increase in the number of minority students earning STEM degrees, the alliance will apply three broad strategies:

  • Strengthen underrepresented minority students’ academic preparation and disciplinary engagement.
  • Increase student retention and graduation.
  • Facilitate students’ transition from community college to four-year institutions.

Those strategies will feature selected high-impact practices, including mathematics placement and online review support, summer bridge programs, freshman learning communities, peer-mentoring programs, degree mapping, faculty-mentored research, and an annual research conference.

The strategies target a key area that experts believe causes minority students, as well as others, to depart from STEM degree pathways: mathematics.

The alliance is committed to ensuring the minority STEM majors are assessed on their mathematical skills before enrollment and provided a structured, online math mentoring program.

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