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May 1, 2017   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | NSF grant will be used to extend STEM minority program

NSF grant will be used to extend STEM minority program

Camie Williams

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By Camie Williams | May 1, 2017

The University of Georgia will launch a new program to increase underrepresented minority enrollment in graduate programs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Bridges to the Doctorate program, which is funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, builds on the university's longstanding Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program. In the decade since the Peach State LSAMP was established, minority undergraduate enrollment in STEM fields at UGA has tripled. Through the new grant, students who successfully complete the undergraduate program will have an opportunity to continue their education at UGA and pursue a doctorate.

"The U.S. is at a critical inflection point with respect to its STEM workforce," said Graduate School Dean Suzanne Barbour. "While the overall demographics of the country are changing rapidly, diversity of the STEM workforce has lagged behind. This disparity has potential to threaten our role as the global leader in STEM research and development. Programs like Bridges to the Doctorate are essential, as they will allow us to retain the best and brightest minds in the pipeline to the STEM workforce."

Through the Bridges to the Doctorate program, 12 LSAMP alumni will receive two years of support for work toward a doctoral degree, with the remaining support coming from the department in which they study. The Bridges to the Doctorate program also includes mentoring and professional development. The first cohort will begin their studies this summer.

The Peach State LSAMP provides academic enrichment, financial support, peer and faculty mentoring, and research opportunities for students at UGA and several additional University System of Georgia institutions. The program began in 2006, and a $4 million NSF grant awarded in 2016 will fund the program through 2021.

"The Peach State LSAMP grant has had incredible success in increasing the numbers of underrepresented students who are retained and graduate in STEM majors," said Michelle Cook, associate provost and chief diversity officer. Cook's office administers the Peach State LSAMP program. "Bridges to the Doctorate provides an excellent opportunity for us to leverage this success as we continue to build the pipeline from undergraduate degree, through graduate study on into industry, research and the professoriate."

UGA's Bridges to the Doctorate program comes at a time when enrollment in STEM fields at the university is increasing dramatically. Twenty-one percent of all undergraduate degrees UGA awarded last year were in STEM fields, an increase of 5 percentage points over the past five years. Thirty-two percent of all Ph.D. students enrolled at UGA are in STEM disciplines, which also reflects an increase of 5 percentage points over the past five years.

"The Bridges to the Doctorate program builds on an impressive array of programming at the University of Georgia that fosters diversity and expands professional development opportunities for graduate students," said Provost Pamela Whitten. "These extraordinary programs elevate graduate education and play a vital role in keeping our state and nation at the forefront of innovation and discovery."

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