Mississippi plans to ‘drastically improve’ the graduation rates of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields across the state.
Two years after an ACT report showed that the number of students interested in STEM decreased by 3 percent over four years, a statewide program that provides pathways to STEM jobs in Mississippi received a major boost from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
“The support provided by NSF has been instrumental to the training of students unrepresented in STEM from undergraduate through graduate programs,” NSF said in the award announcement. “Many Mississippi students enrolled in STEM disciplines will likely change their majors after the first year in college.”
The continuing grant of $800,000 will help Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation Pathways change these patterns for underrepresented minority students in the region, NSF said.
‘Mentoring, intrusive intervention, internships’
Jackson State University, the lead institution in the alliance, will offer programs focused on mentoring, “intrusive intervention,” conferences, expert speakers, summer internships, advising and many other activities to retain STEM students from undergraduate to graduate.
Over the next five years, the alliance aims to increase undergraduate STEM enrollment by 35 percent and increase STEM retention and baccalaureate graduation by 30 percent.
The alliance also plans to increase the number of students matriculating into STEM graduate program pipelines by 25 percent and increase the number of students gaining research experiences from 20 to 30 students across the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Tougaloo College, Delta State University, Hinds Community College and Jackson State.
“For nearly a quarter of a century, the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation has played a significant role in educating minority students in STEM,” said JSU’s Martha Tchounwou and the statewide program manager of LSMAMP.
“The new funding provides us with an opportunity to continue to recruit, retain and graduate underrepresented minority students and make a significant impact on workforce development in Mississippi and throughout the U.S,” she said.
The Mississippi STEM Pathways and Research Alliance also provide research experiences for students through partnerships with laboratories, industry, out-of-state universities, and scientific societies.
Additionally, educational research will provide an institution-wide model to highlight best practices, and a control group study to drastically improve the graduation rates of URM students in STEM fields.