The director of operations for the Urban Center for the Advancement of STEM Education (UCASE) at the IU School of Education in Indianapolis spent much of this last week discussing efforts to boost minority participation and achievement in STEM fields during a large national conference. Kim Nguyen presented a paper on efforts she's helped conduct through UCASE and other efforts at IUPUI and spoke during a news conference on the topic as part of the 246th American Chemical Society's National Meeting and Exposition, held at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis Sept. 8-12.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) touts that it is the world's largest scientific society and one of the world's leading sources of authoritative scientific information. Congress chartered the nonprofit organization in 1876.
During a session on Sunday, Nguyen discussion two efforts she's directed at IUPUI over the last 15 years to increase minority success in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. During her presentation titled "Connecting the STEM Pathways: Build Partnerships to Broaden the Participation of Underrepresented Minority Students in STEM Degree Programs at IUPUI," Nguyen detailed key partnerships toward that effort. On Monday, she elaborated on those efforts to media members at a news conference focused on minority STEM recruitment and retention.
"IUPUI has been named by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education in May 2013 as 19th among the 30 best institutions for minorities in STEM," Nguyen said during the news conference.
IUPUI has connected with ACS and companies including Eli Lilly & Co., Dow AgroSciences, and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute to host "Project SEED." Though the program started in Indianapolis in 1973, outreach has tripled in the last five years with more than 600 participants. The program pairs high school sophomores and juniors with scientific research mentors at IUPUI and industry partners. Together, they do an 8-week summer exploration in STEM job fields. A survey of participants from the last 20 years revealed 97 percent attended college with nearly half completing or planning to complete graduate or professional school.
"We believe the involvement of organizations has helped us develop and grow the number of students participating and moving on to STEM careers," Nguyen said of the collaboration.
Nguyen also spoke about the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Indiana program which has partnered IUPUI with Purdue University in West Lafayette. The program funded by the National Science Foundation since 2002 is designed to broaden participation of underrepresented minority students in STEM majors. Last year, IUPUI expanded that effort by collaborating with Chicago State University to establish the Pilot Regional Center-the Louis Stokes Midwest Center of Excellence, boosting efforts of minority students in STEM careers at 28 institutions in the Midwest.
In outlining those efforts, Nguyen emphasized that faculty mentoring has proven especially important. "If the student is exposed to the work of the scientist, exposed to the work of the professional and the demands of the field, that can help them to graduate," she said. "At IUPUI, we have seen the number of students of underrepresented minorities with a STEM degree growing from 29 students in 2002 to 97 students in 2010. We believe that faculty mentors had significant impact on retaining students in STEM fields and moving them beyond to an advanced degree and professional field."