(Newark, N.J., Aug. 5, 2009) -- Rutgers University in Newark will lead a $5 million, five-year, multiple-school program that aims to substantially increase the numbers of minority of students pursuing majors - and eventually, careers -- in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM fields.
Rutgers University-Newark will lead a consortium including Kean University, New Jersey City University, Essex County College, Bloomfield College, Montclair State University, Fairleigh Dickinson University/Teaneck, William Paterson University and Rutgers University, New Brunswick in the five-year Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (GS-LSAMP), which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"By working together, Rutgers University and our partner schools are determined to make substantial progress in efforts to 'open the doors' for more students to pursue careers in these critical STEM fields," states Steve J. Diner, chancellor of Rutgers in Newark. "Our goal is to make New Jersey a top state that invests in the rich and deep talent that resides in our nation's minority populations."
The consortium aims to double, in five years, the number of minority students completing undergraduate degrees in the STEM disciplines by providing academic support programs, including tutoring and peer-led team learning (PLTL). PLTLs are sessions in which upperclassmen help younger students through difficult STEM classes that have traditionally been a barrier to success and retention. "If we can get students beyond the difficult
introductory 'gateway courses' that scare off many of them, we can improve retention of minorities in the STEM fields," explains Dr. Alexander E. Gates, chair of the Earth and Environmental Sciences department at Rutgers University, Newark. Gates is GS-LSAMP's co-principal investigator and project director. Training for the mentors will be provided by the Educational Opportunity Fund programs at the partner institutions, according to Gates.
Another way that GS-LSAMP hopes to increase minority student participation in the STEM fields is by providing opportunities for undergraduates to conduct hands-on laboratory research with faculty members, says Gates. Other activities include community service, visits to local high schools for recruitment, and internships.
The $5 million GS-LSAMP grant will provide stipends to fund the tutoring and PLTL sessions as well as the research funds for GS-LSAMP scholars enrolled at the consortium schools.
NSF initiated LSAMP - then known as the Alliance for Minority Participation - in 1991, said Gates, and it is ranked as one of the 10 most effective diversity programs in the U.S. by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. The GS-LSAMP is the first such program in New Jersey in 15 years. The award is named for civil rights activist, lawyer and 15-term Congressman Louis Stokes, the first African American member of Congress from the State of Ohio. During his Congressional career he was especially active in health care and public health issues, serving on the Pepper Commission on Comprehensive Health Care. Stokes also was the founder and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust.