CORVALLIS, Ore. – A collaboration of five universities in the Pacific Northwest has received a five-year, $3.44 million grant renewal from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of minority students who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
Participants in the program include Oregon State University, Portland State University, Boise State University, the University of Washington and Washington State University. Karen Thompson, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Education, helped develop this collaboration. Called the Pacific Northwest Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in STEM, the initiative has been quite successful in recruiting more minority students and assisting them in completing their degrees, officials say.
In the first five-year grant at OSU, the goal was to double the number of under-represented minority students who graduated in a STEM discipline – which would have been 154 graduates in June, 2014. They significantly exceeded that, with 196 degrees awarded. This program provides financial, academic, social and professional support to help students achieve their academic and professional goals.
“Changing demographics in Oregon make it critical to graduate a greater number of minority students in STEM disciplines to fill positions in industry and academia,” said Ellen Momsen, co-principal investigator of this program at OSU, and director of its Women and Minorities in Engineering program.
“Our industry partners are enthusiastic about the increase in the diversity of our College of Engineering graduates,” Momsen said. “This is essential to improve the lives of all the people in our state.”
About 47 percent of the 3,043 under-represented minority students at OSU are now majoring in STEM disciplines at OSU, Momsen said. Many of them are taking advantage of programs such as a two-week “bridge” program for freshmen and a two-day leadership academy. A significant number also later become involved as undergraduates in original scientific research.