Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced that it will partner with Georgia Institute of Technology to create a University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM).  The new type of partnership, initiated through the Foundation’s Minority Ph.D. program, is designed to identify universities with a proven track record of successfully educating underrepresented minority graduate students in STEM disciplines and empower these universities to expand, strengthen, and institutionalize efforts aimed at minority recruitment, mentoring, educational support, and professional development.  Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering will receive a three-year grant of approximately $1M for these activities, most of which will go directly to students for stipend support and professional development funds.

“We are grateful for the support of the Sloan Foundation who saw the promise in this program,” said Georgia Tech Engineering Dean Gary May. “As a nation, we need to engage students of all backgrounds to increase our technological IQ and help create a more robust economy. Tech has been leading the way in a number of initiatives related to STEM education and partnering with the Sloan Foundation allows us to continue this work to encourage underrepresented minorities to receive advanced degrees in engineering.”

A partnership among the eight schools in its highly-rated College of Engineering, the University Center of Exemplary Mentoring at Georgia Tech will provide stipend support to some 21 additional minority Ph.D. students over the next three years.  “We are excited that the UCEM will include enrichment programs which foster a community of successful Ph.D. students across the College of Engineering,” said Aerospace Engineering Professor Stephen M. Ruffin, chair, Tech’s UCEM coordinating committee.

Beyond stipend support, Georgia Tech will offer a comprehensive array of support initiatives that cover a student’s tenure at the school, including a program that engages college juniors and seniors in discussions of opportunities for graduate study, a transitions program to familiarize entering graduate students with the resources available to them, and enrichment activities that help new engineers approach coursework and exams successfully, conduct research, write papers for publication, and prepare for impactful careers.

“Although we already lead the nation in producing minority PhD graduates,” said May, “there is still much to be done. Underrepresented minority participation drops significantly for advanced engineering degrees.  The Sloan Foundation is providing the necessary resources so that all segments of the population will have the opportunity for STEM careers.”

Selected through a competitive  review process Georgia Tech, along with two other institutions – Cornell and Penn State - were chosen based on a number of criteria, including their historical success in recruiting and mentoring doctoral students from underrepresented minorities; the quality of the departments and programs constituting the UCEM; the quality, breadth, and creativity of their planned future activities; and the strength of their institutional commitment to furthering education for underrepresented minorities in the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

“Cornell, Georgia Tech, and Penn State have demonstrated a truly exceptional commitment to the education of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields,” says Dr. Elizabeth S. Boylan, Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  “On every level, from the lab where the experienced mentor guides the student, to the department that provides academic and social support, to senior administrative leaders who champion the value of diversity, these institutions are doing whatever it takes to ensure that minority students have the resources and the environment they need to succeed.”

The UCEMs are designed to assist universities that are national leaders in educating underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, institutions that can serve as catalysts and models for other educational institutions around the country.  “These institutions are forging a new path in minority graduate education,” says Boylan, “and we are proud to partner with them as they apply best practices and develop new ones.”

The creation of the University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring represents a change in the direction of the Sloan Foundation’s Minority Ph.D. program.  First initiated in 1995, the program initially focused on support at the individual mentor or department level, providing scholarships to students in over 60 graduate programs across the country.  A year-long program-wide evaluation in 2012 led to a change in strategy.  “After consulting with students, professors, educators, administrators, and program participants all across the country, we determined that we could leverage our funds if we concentrated our resources for student scholarship support on fewer institutions,” says Boylan, who oversaw the evaluation.  “The most effective programs for educating students marshal resources from all levels of university faculty and administration and provide support at every step of a student’s career.  That’s exactly what the University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring are expected to do.”

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Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering (CoE) offers the resources of a major technological university and a location in the heart of cosmopolitan Atlanta. CoE is the largest of the Institute’s six colleges, enrolling more than 60 percent of the students at Georgia Tech and about half of all tenured and tenure track faculty at the Institute.  CoE offers more than 50 different degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels through its main Atlanta campus and satellite campuses around the world. www.coe.gatech.edu

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grantmaking institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance.  This grant was made through the Foundation’s STEM Higher Education Program Area, which aims to increase the quality and diversity of higher education in STEM fields.   www.sloan.org