Houston minority graduation rises in sciences, engineering as result of UH-led alliance

09/28/04

HOUSTON The University of Houston is paving the way for more minorities to earn degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering with notable success in a national NSF-sponsored program.

In the last five years, the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (H-LSAMP), led by UH and consisting of seven other academic institutions of higher education, is one of the most successful in the nation and on track to achieve its goal of increasing the number of underrepresented minority students who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, according to independent external evaluators of the National Science Foundation (NSF) program.

Preparing students for entry into graduate programs, an important goal of H-LSAMP is to increase the number of doctoral graduates and professors of Hispanic, African-American, Native American and Pacific Islander descent in STEM fields to ensure that scientific advancements reflect the needs of all sectors of our society. Established in 1999, H-LSAMP has been approved for phase II of the program with another five-year NSF grant in the amount of $5 million, starting Oct. 1, 2004.

H-LSAMP is charged with a new vision for phase II to serve as a national model and resource for other academic institutions. Currently, the University of Houston leads the consortium of six universities and two community colleges in the H-LSAMP, consisting of UH, Texas Southern University, UH-Downtown, UH-Victoria, Rice University, Texas State University, Houston Community College System and San Jacinto College District. The group also enjoys a good partnership with Houston Independent School District, which endorses and promotes H-LSAMP efforts to inform high school students of opportunities for university study in STEM fields, heavily recruiting eligible students to attend institutions in the alliance.

"The Houston LSAMP program is one of the most effective in the country," said Martin V. Bonsangue, professor of mathematics at California State University, Fullerton, and an external evaluator for phase I. "It is on target with its goal of doubling the number of students who graduate with STEM degrees in five years from the institutions, which is the goal of the national NSF program. Very few programs come close to reaching this vision, and it is among the strongest out of all the LSAMP programs."

A national program, LSAMP is one of a sequence of four NSF programs that seek to build productive capacity and output within institutions with significant enrollments of minority populations underrepresented within STEM professions. The program requires awardees to establish meaningful partnerships among academic institutions in their respective geographic areas and encourages the inclusion of government agencies and laboratories, industry and professional organizations.

As the lead institution of the H-LSAMP consortium, UH will be allocated the highest share of the grant money. Sharing directorship responsibilities, John L. Bear, dean of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Bobby L. Wilson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Texas Southern University, are H-LSAMP's co-directors. Additionally, all H-LSAMP partners contribute 50 percent more than the one-to-one match required by NSF nationally.

"The excellence workshops integral to the program are designed to develop superior problem-solving skills and are led by upper-level H-LSAMP scholars that also fosters mentoring relationships," Bear said. "Financial support also is available to participating students through stipends for such work as teaching in the workshops, helping with the Web site and working in research labs."

The UH campus, for instance, provides a building on campus where many students with similar majors and minors at all levels from freshmen to seniors find safe haven to seek assistance from others in the H-LSAMP program or take advantage of quiet rooms to concentrate. Workshop instructors also are on hand and eager to help.

There are many success stories that have come out of the University of Houston's H-LSAMP program, including those who have gone on to become medical students, practicing engineers, high school science teachers and computer programmers, as well as those embarking on the pursuit of graduate degrees.

"I graduated from the University of Houston in May 2004 and am now a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania," said Joshua Udoetuk, another recent H-LSAMP participant who earned a bachelor's degree from UH's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "The research experiences, teaching opportunities and workshop courses provided by H-LSAMP helped me develop a strong scientific background, so that I felt totally prepared for medical school. I feel indebted to UH and to H-LSAMP in particular for supplying the resources necessary for me to realize my dream of becoming a doctor."

Many of these graduates, as well as current students and LSAMP members from around the nation, will convene at the Fourth Annual H-LSAMP Conference held October 1-3, 2004, at the University of Houston. Put on by H-LSAMP, the conference is open to anyone who wants to register and attend. There will be workshops for various graduate and undergraduate programs, GRE classes, exhibitors recruiting students and poster and oral presentations for prizes.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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