NSF donates $3M to University of Michigan-led diversity in STEM program

The atrium of the Ford Robotics Building at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. Classrooms, work, and lab spaces enable students for both undergraduate and graduate levels. (Joseph Xu/University of Michigan Engineering, Communications and Marketing)

ANN ARBOR – In an effort to increase the number of Black, Latin American and Indigenous students entering science, engineering, tech and mathematics fields, the National Science Foundation has committed $3 million to the Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

The federal funds will ensure the program, run by University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, will continue for another five years. Through MI-LSAMP, more than 7,500 minority students in Michigan have earned degrees.

The Michigan alliance program is one of dozens of similar programs across the country that are trying bring students from historically excluded communities into STEM fields.

“There is so much talent out there, and we’re not availing ourselves of that full talent pool,” U-M Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and the current Lead Co-Principal Investigator, Herbert Winful, said in a release. “We need to pull out all the stops to get more people of color into the STEM disciplines.”

Other institutions participating in the endeavor include Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, Mott Community College and Washtenaw Community College.

Programs provided to minority students via MI-LSAMP over the past 15 years include summer transition programs, peer support, advising and mentoring and research opportunities. Workshops often focus on career building, social media branding, leadership and resilience.

According to a U-M release, MI-LSAMP will focus on the following area over the next five years:

  • Continuing and expanding summer bridge programs that have been shown to bolster first-year academic performance and retention.
  • Supporting and growing the alliance’s NxtGEN STEM Scholars Program, which provides guidance from multiple institutions at every step along the student’s academic path.
  • Expanding summer research opportunities in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program—an offering that has proven to increase the likelihood students will pursue postgraduate education.
  • Integrating MI-LSAMP within the broader array of student support services and resources offered by partner institutions to create new synergies/partnerships and leverage economies of scale to assist historically excluded students.

“Whenever a complex system produces relatively stable inequities over a long time horizon, the design of the system must be addressed to improve results,” MI-LSAMP interim executive director Matthew Nelson said in a release. “The University’s commitment to leverage MI-LSAMP in rethinking how underrepresented minority students in STEM are supported is a huge step in the right direction.”

According to NSF’s Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, a lack of diversity across STEM fields results in a lack of viewpoints which trickles down each discipline.

“Diverse perspectives are necessary for solving critical scientific and social challenges such as disease, hunger, poverty, safety and security,” the committee said in a statement. “STEM leaders from underrepresented groups…persons with disabilities and women provide the different cultural perspectives necessary to solve the broad spectrum of human problems.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.