sealPurdue News

March 4, 2003

Universities receive grant to double science related degrees for minorities

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Five universities in Indiana will collaborate in a statewide effort aimed at doubling the number of undergraduate degrees awarded to minorities in science, math, engineering and technology during the next five years.

The National Science Foundation awarded the $5 million Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation grant to Purdue University, Indiana University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Ball State University and Purdue University Calumet. The universities will use the funding to double the number of degrees conferred by 2008 from 209 to 418.

The grant will be divided evenly among the campuses, and each university also will match the grant funding with its own investment.

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke said the grant will help realize an important goal.

"Each university has joined this effort because we are committed to building a student body, faculty and staff that reflect our society while fostering a climate where everyone is treated with dignity and respect," Jischke said. "We also are committed to improving the state economy by offering the best education available to Indiana's future workers in the sciences and high-tech industries. The National Science Foundation has provided the alliance an important opportunity to fulfill these commitments."

Purdue Provost Sally Frost Mason, who will oversee the program, said she is optimistic about the project's success.

"I am firmly committed to working with representatives from all alliance members' campuses to ensure the success of this project," Frost Mason said. "I have enjoyed working with underrepresented students in these disciplines, and I am excited to lend my expertise to a project with statewide implications."

The alliance plans to hire a program director to coordinate the universities' sharing of information and who will report to Frost Mason. Once implemented the program will feature three components tailored to the needs of each campus.

The first component features the Summer Transition and Academic Research programs. The programs will assist minority students with their transition to college, help them explore related careers, provide research experience and laboratory visits, and arrange partnerships with faculty and/or graduate mentors.

The second component features supplemental instruction programs in which the students will lead or participate in study-skill sessions. These sessions will supplement core courses and selected advanced courses so that participants' grade point averages increase and retention rates are raised.

The third component focuses on the coordination of program development by the universities. Conferences will be organized in which the students will share their experiences and assist staff in developing ways to improve the program.

Beverley Pitts, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Ball State University, said many different schools and departments within her university will be involved.

"I am pleased that the proposal includes broad involvement by faculty from the College of Science and Humanities as well as the professional personnel of the Multicultural Center, University College and the counseling center," Pitts said.

Sharon Stephens Brehm, Indiana University chancellor, said the support of each dean will be critical to the program's success.

"With their strong support, we will be able to secure sufficient numbers of faculty research mentors, examine, and, where necessary, revamp the recruitment procedures in the sciences, math and technology departments and help obtain the necessary resources to establish on this campus a viable minority presence in the sciences, mathematics and technology."

Howard Cohen, Purdue University Calumet chancellor, said his campus will build on its past success in increasing mentoring opportunities for minority students.

"One example of the success seen in connecting students with faculty members in their discipline is the Department of Education McNair Achievement Program," Cohen said. "This program is designed to serve 40 junior and senior students per year who are underrepresented within their particular discipline. Ninety percent of these students are minorities. Since its beginning in the mid-1990s, McNair has shown that through well designed and monitored mentoring by faculty with undergraduate research assignments, over 97 percent of the students have been retained within the program and 90 percent have graduated."

Gerald Bepko, Indiana University interim president and former IUPUI chancellor, said IUPUI offers the alliance a program with a proven model.

"Each year students in the Minority Research Scholars Program publish papers with their faculty mentors and give presentations at professional conferences," Bepko said. "Our program is unique in that recipients are placed in a structured research environment and paired with mentors from the start of their freshman year, as compared to waiting until their junior and senior years. The program's retention rate is about 96 percent, and the first graduates were featured in the June 2001 edition of 'Black Issues in Higher Education.'"

Alysa Rollock, Purdue vice president for human relations and a governing board member for the Stokes alliance, said the spirit of cooperation among alliance members will be a benefit to minority students.

"Each university has its own history of success in these areas," Rollock said. "Still, we believe we can do more together to achieve our goals than we can do in isolation."

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

Sources: Sally Frost Mason, (765) 494-9709,

Alysa Rollock (765) 494-5830,

Beverley Pitts (765) 285-3716,

Sharon Stephens Brehm, (812) 855-1871

Howard Cohen, (219) 989-2446,

Charles Nelms, vice president for student services and diversity at Indiana University, (812) 856-5700,

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