The multi-institutional collaboration brings together community colleges and four-year universities.
In 2017, Texas Tech University launched a collaboration with other Texas institutions to boost the numbers of underrepresented minority (URM) students earning degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Now, with a new $2,017,456 grant from the National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, the partnership is moving into its next phase.
Five years from now, program leaders expect to see twice as many URM graduates from STEM disciplines and 75% more URM transfers.
“Solving many of today's complex problems – and those of tomorrow – will require the combined efforts of scholars from varied backgrounds,” said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president and the principal investigator (PI) on the new grant. “That's the entire concept behind diversity: a wider variety of experiences breeds a broader field of ideas. Thus, the opportunity to simultaneously serve these underrepresented students and increase their participation in STEM fields is one we must take advantage of. I thank all of our collaborators for their roles in this important work.”
Four years ago, the Bridges Across Texas LSAMP (BAT-LSAMP) Pre-Alliance brought together representatives of two-year community colleges and four-year universities. For 18 months, the partners gathered survey and interview data on students' needs, attitudes, barriers to success, persistence within their majors and existing program capacities.
With its new grant, the partnership moves from a Pre-Alliance into an Alliance between Dallas College El Centro Campus, South Plains College, Texas Southmost College, Texas Tech and the University of North Texas at Dallas. Each institution will establish a physical undergraduate STEM center on its campus, and the five centers will be linked virtually to connect students and resources statewide.
With its already established STEM Center for Outreach, Research and Engagement (STEM CORE), Texas Tech will lead the initiative by hosting the virtual network. The new STEM center established through the program will be housed under STEM CORE.
Texas Tech's co-PIs on the grant are Raegan Higgins, BAT-LSAMP Alliance director, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics and an associate director of STEM CORE, and Jon McNaughtan, an assistant professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Psychology & Leadership and associate director of the Center for Research in Leadership and Education.
Four other Texas Tech faculty members will serve as senior personnel:
- Jaclyn Cañas-Carrell, interim vice provost for curriculum, a professor in the Department of Environmental Toxicology and the immediate past director of STEM CORE
- Annette Hernandez, an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental & Construction Engineering, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and an associate director of STEM CORE
- Nancy McIntyre, a professor and associate chair in the Department of Biological Sciences and an associate director of STEM CORE
- Jessica Spott, director of STEM CORE
Higgins and Spott will manage the daily oversight of the program's activities.
“Community colleges enroll higher proportions of historically marginalized students who are underrepresented in STEM,” McNaughtan said. “Often, these students are less likely to persist through bachelor's degrees in STEM or feel a sense of connection to their peers and colleges. The purpose of this grant is to help increase the transfer and retention of historically marginalized students in STEM through a network of STEM centers that will help students have all the resources they need.”
The Alliance will provide academic and career resources across institutions, serve as gathering places to promote cohort bonding and increase completion of four-year STEM degrees by URMs.
“The whole BAT-LSAMP Alliance has a shared vision,” Higgins said. “We will be working toward the Alliance goals together, holding each other accountable, problem-solving and working to serve students across the state.”