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NSF Grant Funds Minority Graduate Study

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December 14, 2004

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $7.6 million grant over five years to Purdue University in partnership with Northwestern University and Indiana University to increase the number of minority students entering graduate study at these three universities in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Titled “Midwest Crossroads AGEP” (Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate), the project also will develop programs for increasing the retention and graduation rates of STEM minority students and for encouraging more minority STEM PhD alumni to enter academia. The goals of the project are to triple the number of underrepresented minorities receiving PhD degrees in STEM fields from the three partner universities and to place more than 70 percent of them in academia.

The first thrust of the program focuses on new recruiting efforts aimed at regional as well as national universities, in large part by forming close partnerships between predominantly minority-serving undergraduate institutions and individual faculty and departments at Northwestern. Particular emphasis will be placed on the universities and colleges in the Indiana Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) based at Purdue, which has produced an increasing but as yet untapped pool of minority undergraduates. Joint research, faculty exchanges and expanded Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) participation are cornerstones of this effort. SROP encourages students to consider graduate education by providing sophomores and juniors majoring in certain disciplines with an opportunity for direct involvement in research.

The second thrust includes the designation of AGEP Professors, professors who are committed to graduating minority PhDs during the next 10 years, and AGEP Scholars, students who are committed to mentoring young minority STEM PhD students. These professors and scholars will be supported by grants of up to $3,000 for each individual minority PhD student.

New material on minority issues at the college level will be created for the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) professional development program. PFF offers Northwestern graduate students the opportunity to augment their disciplinary training with preparation in the issues and responsibilities that shape professional life in academia. A unique contribution from Northwestern will be the development of a workshop in 2005 to prepare advanced minority PhD students for job searching in academia. The workshop will address specific issues faced by young minority faculty as well as general issues about negotiating the best “deal.” As with recruiting, a key to placement is the development of partnerships with top universities and national research institutes.