A consortium of Michigan universities and community colleges — including the University of Michigan — has been awarded a five-year, $4.25 million grant by the National Science Foundation to help increase participation and graduation rates among underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The consortium, the Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, otherwise known as MI-LSAMP, includes U-M, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Mott and Washtenaw community colleges.

This is the third time the MI-LSAMP has been awarded the NSF grant, with the previous five-year awards coming in 2005 and 2010.

Derrick Scott, director of inclusion and multicultural engineering programs for the Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach at U-M, has been involved with MI-LSAMP for more than a decade. He began his role as the executive director of the consortium this year.

“The overall goal of the MI-LSAMP is to significantly increase the number of minority students earning degrees in STEM fields and to further prepare them for entry into graduate programs or the professional workplace. We want to cultivate a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce and expand the scientific literacy of all citizens,” Scott said.

“So we’re focusing on comprehensive support programs and mentored research to help bolster retention and graduation rates among underrepresented students, while also increasing the transfer rate of underrepresented students from community colleges to four-year programs and helping those students matriculate into graduate programs.”

Funding from the NSF grant has allowed all four MI-LSAMP four-year institutions to host Pre-First-Year programs. These Pre-First-Year programs offer a six-week, residential, academic-intensive experience designed to acclimate incoming freshmen with both the academic and environmental aspects of post-secondary education. Participants attend daily classes in math, writing and chemistry, as well as an engineering seminar course to expose them to post-graduation and professional opportunities.

MI-LSAMP also sponsors an All Students Day program for participants to meet, network and receive additional preparation for their first year of college.

Through the program, community college students have the opportunity to participate in a summer bridge program between high school and their first year in community college, and then again during the summer between community college and transfer to a four-year institution.

“The Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation works. Since this alliance was formed we’ve seen a substantial increase in the total number of underrepresented minority STEM graduates from our four-year institutions,” Scott said.

“At the end of the first phase of the program in 2011, 423 underrepresented minority students graduated with degrees in STEM fields from our partnering institutions. In 2016, that number was 653 students, an increase of about 55 percent. We’re sure that number will continue to increase as we’re able to strengthen these pipelines, programs and partnerships with other Michigan institutions.”

As Scott pointed out, the program has been helping bridge the talent gap that exists within the state as it relates to underrepresented minorities, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Levi Thompson, the Richard E. Balzhiser Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, is the co-principal investigator of MI-LSAMP and has been involved with the program since its inception.

“A key to the progress we have made has been working as an alliance,” Thompson said. “This facilitates the efficient translation of best practices such as pre-first year programs and allows us to offer a greater variety of experiential options to students. While there has been significant progress, there is much more that needs to be done. We appreciate the NSF’s confidence in our team and programs.”
By Jeremy Allen
Public Affairs