FVSU receives National Science Foundation grant to increase STEM diversity

The National Science Foundation recently named Fort Valley State University and its four educational partners as the first-ever grant recipients from a brand-new program designed to increase diversity in science-related professions and American college classrooms.

FVSU belongs to a University of Georgia-chaired two-year design pilot program called, “An Integrated Approach to Retain Underrepresented Minority Students in STEM Discipline.” FVSU will receive a $300,000 NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) grant.

Only 37 programs nationwide received grant funding for 2016. As part of the partnership, this project will be led by Dr. Sarwan Dhir, FVSU professor of biotechnology, who will jointly develop a pilot student-exchange program to foster diversity within the classroom with UGA and other partner schools: Clark-Atlanta University, Florida International University and Savannah State University. The program will also help minority students navigate STEM undergraduate and graduate education at research intensive institutions, minority-serving institutions (MSI) and predominantly-white institutions (PWI). 

 “Our goal is to increase interest, knowledge and activity choices of students in ways that promote science education and STEM career choices among minority youth,” said Dhir.

“This collaborative project between four universities is critical to its success. We want our students to network and interact with working scientists and educators as much as possible. Simply talking with different working professionals will let students see the variety of career options they can pursue and what skills they need to be successful in those positions,” he added.

The INCLUDES grant will help increase the number of skilled workers by improving access to STEM educational and career paths to individuals from low socio-economic and underrepresented groups.

“The U.S. science and engineering workforce can survive if women, blacks, Hispanics, and people with disabilities are represented in percentages comparable to their representation in the U.S. population,” NSF Director France Cordova said in a released statement about INCLUDES.  In FY 2017, NSF will begin to invite proposals to form INCLUDES Alliances. The formation of these alliances will build on the activities started in FY 2016. It is expected that up to five alliances will be funded for five years, at up to $2,500,000 per year each.

In the released statement, the director said that the new program will also build alliances between academic institutions like Fort Valley State University with private federal and corporate partners, and scientific professional societies that will prepare students for professional careers and scientific research contributions.

The UGA-led pilot program will include three interventions:   1.) Undergraduate research institution exchanges between minority-serving institutions and PWIs; 2.) Collaborative inquiries to engage underrepresented minority students in social science research about issues and experiences of under representation in STEM; and 3.) Resource adaptation from the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning to train STEM faculty to embrace diversity and improve teaching in diverse classroom settings

For more details, contact Dr Sarwan Dhir at (478) 822-1057 or visit http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=189706.

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