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Rutgers University–Newark Wins $3.5 Million Federal Grant to Boost Minority Representation in STEM Fields

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Dr. Gates and LSAMP Scholars at 2013 Annual Garden State LSAMP Conference at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. (From left to right: Webster Gray, Monica Bridgelall, Tamika Presadie, Kendall St. Ange, and Alexander Gates)

Rutgers University–Newark has received a $3.5 million grant to continue its efforts in leading a statewide program to increase minority representation in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will fund the Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Phase II (GS-LSAMP II) from July 2014 through June 2019. GS-LSAMP II will expand upon the success of its precursor, GS-LSAMP, which exceeded its goal of doubling the number of minority students who earn their bachelor’s degrees in STEM. Approximately 2,000 students have completed the program since its inception in 2009.

Through GS-LSAMP, RU–N has led a consortium of colleges (Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Kean University, New Jersey City University, Essex County College, Bloomfield College, Montclair State University, Farleigh Dickinson University/Teaneck, and William Paterson University) that has provided academic support to minority students through tutoring, peer-led team learning (PLTL), internships, community service, and research opportunities.

“This collaboration will build knowledge about how to develop a strong regional alliance with productive partnerships with community colleges,” says Tasha Inniss, NSF program director. “We look forward to seeing the impact of this effort on students making seamless transitions from two-year institutions to four-year STEM baccalaureate degree programs, to graduate programs in STEM and then on to STEM careers. We hope the project can become a model for other such alliances to replicate, in bringing diverse talent into STEM.”

Five New Jersey community colleges (Bergen Community College, Hudson County Community College, Middlesex County College, Passaic County Community College, and Union County College) have joined GS-LSAMP II as active partners in developing a pipeline of students into four-year colleges.

The project’s director and principal investigator is Dr. Alexander Gates, who expects GS-LSAMP II to place more emphasis on guiding students after they have completed their undergraduate education. “We’re focusing on recruiting into the program, and facilitating students’ placement into graduate school,” Gates says. He says that student preparation will include workshops on selection and application, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) preparation, and scholarships and fellowships, as well as recruitment fairs and personal advisement.

Dr. Gates pointed to a former GS-LSAMP scholar, Flomo Kokro, of Trenton, as one who epitomizes the dynamic changes the program can make in a student’s life. After turning away from a period in his life marred by drugs and violence, Kokro enrolled at RU–N and soon after became a GS-LSAMP student. “I was surrounded by students in the same fields of study, students who helped me learn good study habits,” Kokro says, as well as by professors and staff who “wanted me to succeed.”

As a 2014 RU–N graduate with a bachelor of arts in mathematics, Kokro has been accepted into the Bridges to the Doctorate program at California State University, Los Angeles, where he will work toward a doctorate in applied mathematics.

NSF began the LSAMP (previously known as the Alliance for Minority Participation) program in 1991. It was renamed to honor civil rights activist Louis Stokes, the first African-American congressman from Ohio. Stokes founded the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, and has been an advocate for health care and public health issues.