More than 200,000 students from underrepresented populations have so far participated in a program started by the National Science Foundation to increase minority representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, according to the foundation.
Although official figures have not yet been released on the percentage increase in participation, the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program graduated 25,309 students in the 2006 academic year of which 12,454 were Hispanic students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM discipline.
LSAMP Program Director A. James Hicks says some of the growth is related to an increase in participating campuses. In 1990-91, before NSF stepped in to support the fledgling program, there were fewer than 4,000 STEM graduates in six “alliances” — a conglomerate of academia, government, industry, and other organizations in various regions. Today, there are 38 alliances across the nation.
Hispanic Americans have benefited from the program, according to LSAMP. In 2001-2002, Hispanics represented 49 percent of graduates in the LSAMP program. The biggest gains were in Engineering (3,703 students or 55 percent of total graduates) and Mathematics (3,461 students or 43.2 percent) degrees. They represented 48.8 percent of total graduates in Life Sciences and 39 percent of total graduates in Computer Science. However, they substantially lag (1 percent or lower) in Physics/Astronomy, and Environmental Science.
In 2005-2006, there were 12,454 Hispanic students out of a total of 25,309 students. Hispanics continued to make strides in Engineering (4,208 students or 53 percent of total graduates) and Life/Biological Sciences (4,384 students or 49.9 percent of total graduates). Fields such as Geosciences (130 students) and Environmental Science (142 students) have not yet made significant inroads with the population.
Hispanic men, in particular, with 6,991 degrees, represent the largest portion (27.6 percent) of all LSAMP bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2005-2006, followed by Black females with 5,635 degrees (22.2 percent) and Hispanic females, with 5,453 degrees (21.5 percent).
In 1991, minority enrollment in STEM fields reached 35,670 students, the NSF reported. By 2003, more than 205,000 students were enrolled, a substantial increase of 470 percent. The LSAMP program is one of four multi-disciplinary programs started by the NSF to increase the quality and quantity of students receiving baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields.
In a report called “Revitalizing the Nation’s Talent Pool in STEM” by the Urban Institute, analyses indicate that about 65 percent of LSAMP students pursued graduate degrees and 38 percent of all LSAMP students pursued graduate degrees in STEM.
The program also encourages the formation of alliances that include partnerships among two- and four-year colleges, businesses and industries, national research laboratories, local, state, and Federal agencies.
Hicks told Diverse the model is successful because it encourages institutions to integrate students socially and academically while instilling “professionalization.”
“We can expect improvements in participation of underrepresented students in a broader array of STEM disciplines with LSAMP students’ increased involvement in undergraduate research experiences, especially, opportunities at national laboratories and study abroad sites,” says Hicks.
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