UIC, City Colleges channel minority students into science, engineering

UIC students

Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

UIC and City Colleges of Chicago will work together to encourage underrepresented minority male students in community college to pursue baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

UIC’s Minority Male STEM Initiative 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 majoring in these fields at four-year institutions.

The UIC-City College’s partnership is among four chosen for the grants nationwide.

“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,” said William Walden, the program’s lead administrator and UIC special assistant to the provost for diversity.

“But clearly articulated policies and well-coordinated programs are needed to achieve that goal,” added Walden, professor of microbiology and immunology.

UIC’s initiative is built around the Guaranteed Admission Transfer program, which offers City Colleges students guaranteed undergraduate admission to UIC after successfully completing their first two years of college.

For the 2012 and 2013 fall semesters, the program will select 20 to 25 male students who are African American, Latino, Native American or Southeast Asian, and enrolled in science or engineering studies at the City Colleges.

During the pilot phase, students must major 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.

The students will receive academic and peer support and opportunities for research experience as they move through their studies at the City Colleges and UIC. Merit-based scholarships and stipends for summer research with UIC faculty will be available.

UIC has one of the nation’s most diverse student populations, with support centers for underrepresented minority groups that offer mentoring and encourage student involvement on campus and in the community.

The initiative’s goal, Walden said, is to help its students graduate with a solid “B” average or better to improve their chances of graduate or professional school, ultimately increasing the number of underrepresented minority professionals in STEM fields.

“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,” he said.

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