Marshall University part of $2.5 million initiative to increase diversity in high-tech fields

Marshall University is part of a initiative to increase the number of underrepresented minority students studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

A five-year, $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant will fund the Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

The partnership of higher education institutions is being led by the University of Kentucky. In addition to Marshall and UK, alliance members include the University of Louisville, West Virginia University, Western Kentucky University, Centre College, Kentucky State University, West Virginia State University, and Bluegrass Community and Technical College. The grant marks the second phase of the diversity effort, which began in 2006.

With an undergraduate focus, the new funding will sponsor programs and initiatives at the alliance members’ institutions to attract greater numbers of diverse students to the STEM fields, increase retention and graduate up to 500 students over the next five years. In addition, the alliance will seek out cross-institutional opportunities for students in undergraduate research and internships. The alliance has the potential to significantly impact the lives of up to 5,000 underrepresented undergraduate students in the two Appalachian states.

“Expanding opportunities that encourage diversity and inclusiveness is among Marshall University’s foremost strategic priorities. The Kentucky-West Virginia LSAMP program serves as an important means for advancing this goal,” said President Stephen J. Kopp. “In today’s complex world, mobilizing and engaging the talents of all people is more important than ever. We are pleased to be a member of this alliance and look forward to working with our partners to attract, retain and graduate more underrepresented students in high-tech and high-demand fields.”

The alliance’s specific goals include:

  • Increasing minority student enrollment in the STEM fields alliance-wide by 15 percent by 2016, with a 10-20 percent increase yearly thereafter.
  • Increasing the 4-5 year graduation rate for minority STEM majors alliance-wide by 50 percent or more and maintaining or increasing that rate thereafter.

Accomplishing these goals by the fifth year of the project will translate into 260 or more STEM baccalaureate graduates each year among the nine institutions.

National studies show that underrepresented minority students enroll as STEM majors at the same rate as their counterparts, but graduate at significantly lower rates. The project leaders say the key to retention will be providing timely and effective individual support and that they will be developing programs to provide that support.

The first alliance-wide conference will be held at UK during the 2014-15 academic year.