UIC, City Colleges Channel Minority Transfer Students into Science, Engineering

The University of Illinois at Chicago and City Colleges of Chicago have won funding to develop ways to channel more underrepresented minority male students from community college into baccalaureate degree programs in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

UIC’s Minority Male STEM Initiative has received a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, funded by the Kresge Foundation, to address the shortage of transfer students pursuing STEM majors at four-year institutions. Four universities nationally, along with their respective community college partners, were chosen to receive the grants.

The initiative at UIC is built around the Guaranteed Admission Transfer program with the City Colleges of Chicago, a partnership that offers City Colleges students guaranteed undergraduate admission to UIC after successful completion of their first two years of college.

Twenty to 25 African American, Latino, Native American and Southeast Asian males who enter Associate in Science or Associate in Engineering Science studies at the City Colleges of Chicago will be selected for the program in the 2012 and 2013 fall semesters, says lead administrator William Walden, professor of microbiology and immunology at UIC and special assistant to the provost for diversity. The partnership will provide an orientation to the culture of science, academic support, research experience, and access to peer-support networks as the students move through their studies at the City Colleges and UIC, he said.

During the pilot phase students are limited to majoring in biology, chemistry or physics.

“Once we’ve identified what works best in achieving our goals in this subset of STEM disciplines, we’ll expand our efforts to include all STEM areas at UIC as we move to institutionalize the working principles of the program,” Walden said.

In addition to successfully transferring students from the City Colleges to UIC, the initiative’s goals include helping students graduate — and to achieve a solid “B” average or better to improve their chances of graduate or professional school acceptance.

“Although the funded portion of the program will last only two years, we will continue to track participants as long as they are enrolled at UIC,” Walden said. Long term, the goal is to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who go on to graduate school and pursue professional careers in STEM fields, he said.

Participating students will receive a one-week summer orientation to introduce them to UIC’s STEM curriculum. They will be eligible for stipends to conduct summer research with faculty members and to participate in educational and social activities. They will also be eligible for merit-based scholarships, study-skills workshops, and preparation for post-graduate education.

With one of the nation’s most diverse student populations, UIC has established support centers for underrepresented minority groups that provide mentoring and assistance as needed and help foster student involvement on campus and in the community.

Walden hopes the new initiative builds on a longstanding partnership with City Colleges of Chicago in successfully transferring students into baccalaureate programs.

“Research has shown that two-year colleges can play a key role in increasing the number of underrepresented male students who complete undergraduate STEM degrees and go on to successful STEM careers,” Walden said. “But clearly articulated policies and well-coordinated programs are needed to achieve that goal.”

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

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