Indiana University is joining with nine historically Black colleges and universities to boost the number of minorities seeking careers in science, starting with a summer program for promising students who will work at IU’s research laboratories.
IU President Adam Herbert, who announced The STEM Initiative during a Thursday news conference at IUPUI, said a $2 million endowment to fund a graduate student fellowship program is already in place to help get the effort off the ground.
He said the STEM program — its name derives from science, technology, engineering and math — aims to bring students from the mostly southern Black colleges to Indiana for educational opportunities. IU students and faculty will also be able to study or teach at the nine schools.
“This innovative undertaking unites several thousand students and faculty members across the nation around a common objective — increasing the number of underrepresented minority graduate students, scholars and professionals in the STEM disciplines,” he said.
The presidents of three of the historically Black schools — Jackson State, Alabama A&M and Morgan State — attended Thursday’s announcement. The six other schools are: Bennett College for Women, Clark Atlanta University, Hampton University, Langston University, Morehouse College and Xavier University of Louisiana.
The STEM effort could help address the nation’s growing need to produce more scientists in the face of science powerhouses such as China and India that churn out thousands of engineers and scientists each year, said Charles M. Greene, the executive director for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“In this country, that problem is widespread but it’s particularly difficult with minorities and other underrepresented folks,” Greene said.
The STEM program begins in June, when up to 20 juniors and seniors from IU and the nine colleges will take part in an eight-week summer scholars program. They will work on research projects with IU professors and students at the IU-Bloomington or IUPUI campuses.
Their expenses will be paid and they’ll receive a $4,000 stipend.
Also this fall, Herbert said the endowment-funded graduate fellowship program will provide funding for six doctoral and about 10 master’s degree students. He said he hopes the IU Foundation will help expand those positions in coming years.
Jackson State President Ronald Mason Jr. said more than 21 percent of students enrolled at the Mississippi school are majoring in science, technology, engineering or math disciplines.
Mason, whose school is one of the nation’s largest providers of Blacks with bachelor’s degrees in biology, said the STEM Initiative will help supply the scientifically trained work force that “our nation so desperately needs.”
“African-Americans are America’s vast untapped resource,” he said.
IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz said students from the nine colleges who will travel to Bloomington or Indianapolis for the summer scholars program will find a new college experience on IU’s large, predominantly white campuses.
Herbert said he began working on the idea of STEM Initiative in early 2006 as part of IU’s broader goal of increasing its enrollment of Black students.
He said IU has a history of opening its doors to graduate students and faculty members from historically Black institutions that dates back to the era when racist policies limited educational opportunities for Blacks in the South.
“IU was a major resource for minorities seeking postgraduate education during an era when their home states denied them such access,” Herbert said.
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