Wednesday, January 29, 2014

K-State, Donnelly College to partner on STEM program

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- A $2.5 million national grant will be used by Kansas State University and four other educational institutions in Kansas to help students find success in science, technology, engineering and math -- or STEM -- careers, regardless of their race, ethnicity or economic status.

The university is the lead institution for the five-year grant award from the prestigious Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, program of the National Science Foundation. This program is aimed at increasing the quality and quantity of students successfully completing STEM baccalaureate degree programs, as well as increasing the number of students qualified, prepared and accepted into graduate study programs. It is named in honor of Louis Stokes, a longtime African-American congressman from Ohio.

Kansas State University is partnering with Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College and Seward County Community College/Area Technical School, all in southwest Kansas, and with Donnelly College, a minority-serving private institution in Kansas City, Kan., to establish the KS-LSAMP program, Pathways to STEM. The schools were selected because they serve the rapidly growing Hispanic/Latino population of the state and have strong existing ties to Kansas State University.

An initial meeting to introduce the program and its alliance members will be at 10 a.m. Friday, March 14, in the Town Hall Room at the Leadership Studies Building at Kansas State University, Manhattan.

The schools will use Pathways to STEM to build upon and expand recruitment and retention strategies of underrepresented students -- including African-Americans, Native Americans/American Indians and Hispanic/Latino students -- and their ultimate transfer to Kansas State University.

"One of the exciting aspects of this project is that it will develop an innovative pathway that reflects the unique institutional characteristics and student demographics of each partner institution. The pathway will lead to an increase in the number of diverse students who receive STEM degrees, which will in turn address regional and state workforce needs," said April Mason, principal investigator of the project and Kansas State University provost and senior vice president.

The project will include specialized activities at critical junctures in the pathway, Mason said, such as high school to college; two-year to four-year institutions; and the critical freshman-to-sophomore transition at four-year institutions.

"The overall goal will be to double the number of underrepresented students graduating with baccalaureate STEM degrees from K-State within the five years of the project," she said.

A particular focus of the program is recruitment and retention of military veterans in STEM fields because Kansas is home to two Army posts and an Air Force installation. A significant number of underrepresented veterans are enrolled at the partner institutions.

"Kansas State University is known as a military-inclusive institution, and the KS-LSAMP program will work with veterans' offices to provide the specific transitional support needed by veterans, such as peer advising and mentoring. These types of programs are critical to enhancing the educational experience and success of our veterans," said retired Gen. Richard B. Myers, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Kansas State University alumnus.

Pathways to STEM also is aligned with the goals of Foresight 2020, the Kansas Board of Regents' strategic plan with the goal of having 60 percent of the Kansas population achieve a postsecondary credential. Key to accomplishing this goal is increasing postsecondary participation from first-generation college students, particularly students from groups that have not historically been represented in postsecondary education.

Each partner in the program has identified new initiatives that will help with the implementation and success of the project, including focused and enhanced recruiting; development of detailed transfer guides; training for admissions personnel and academic advisers; student enhancement programs such as student research opportunities, internships, math immersion and alternative spring breaks; career counseling; formal and peer tutoring; and improved student tracking.

A team of faculty and administrators from four Kansas State University colleges helped Mason develop the Pathways to STEM proposal and serve as the grant's co-principal investigators.

They include Bette Grauer, assistant dean for retention, diversity and inclusion for the College of Engineering; Beth Montelone, associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences; Linda Thurston, associate dean for research and external funding in the College of Education, and Zelia Wiley, assistant dean for diversity in the College of Agriculture. Project leaders at partner institutions are the presidents or chief academic officers.