Bemidji State University will share in a $2.5-million grant extension from the National Science Foundation won by the University of Minnesota and its 13 collaborating higher education institutions and three community partners. The coalition, called the NorthStar STEM Alliance, has been awarded five years of additional funding through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program to increase the number of under-represented minority students receiving bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Bemidji State will receive approximately $15,500 during the first year of the five-year grant period, with potential increases each year, which will be used to support programs meant to encourage participation and engagement for targeted student populations in BSU’s STEM-related majors.
Bemidji State will employ several best practices identified by the alliance to help retain minority students in STEM disciplines, including:
• seminars preparing students and supporting them through undergraduate research,
• community-building through cohorts and student organizations,
• group study and supplemental instruction,
• faculty and peer mentoring,
• professional development through industry exposure and attendance at national STEM conferences,
• summer bridge programs that give students an advance opportunity to acclimate to campus life and college-level academics.
According to Dr. Tim Kroeger, professor of geology in the Center for Environmental, Earth and Space Studies at Bemidji State, the amount of the stipends could differ depending on the level of participation.
“A mentor might get a student salary, or pay freshmen for attending mentoring, or provide stipends for participating in academic achievement conferences or for participating in class or faculty research,” he said.
Kroeger said BSU hopes to enroll between eight and 12 students in these support programs during the first year of the grant cycle.
“We want our students to participate in STEM-related activities on campus,” he said. “We want them involved in things like the Computer Science Club, which provides mentoring activities already. We want them involved with our faculty and our senior students, and to let them know that there are resources available to help them through the rough spots.”
According to Kroeger, the program also would involve a variety of student-support activities on campus including the Advising Success Center, American Indian Resource Center and Career Services.
“This really is a partnership,” he said.
Kroeger added that the initiative relates well to existing activities being funded at the university under a NASA Space Grant, which provides similar support to U.S. citizens enrolled in STEM disciplines.
The NorthStar STEM Alliance began June 1, 2007, as a partnership among Minnesota colleges and universities and two community organizations. The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is the lead institution, with the collaborative effort involving faculty and staff from the College of Biological Sciences, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, the College of Science and Engineering, and the Office for Equity and Diversity. The following institutions have partnered with the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Duluth and Morris campuses to form the NorthStar STEM Alliance: Bemidji State, Metropolitan State, Minnesota State, Mankato and St. Cloud State universities; Augsburg, Carleton and St. Olaf colleges; Century, Leech Lake Tribal, Minneapolis Community and Technical, and White Earth Tribal and Community colleges. The Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota High Tech Association and the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership are the alliance’s three community partners.
The alliance’s goal was to increase from 136 – the number of underrepresented students graduating from these institutions in 2004-05 – to 272 the number of African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Alaska Native and Pacific Islander students who graduate with STEM degrees in 2012. As the alliance meets this goal, the grant is part of the National Science Foundation’s challenge to institutions to again double the number of graduates by 2017.
More information on the NorthStar STEM Alliance can be found at www.northstarstem.org.