March 7, 2011 -- BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- North Carolina A&T State University has joined with Indiana University and 11 historically black colleges and universities in a partnership aimed at increasing the number of African Americans pursuing careers as researchers and scholars in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
Since 2007 the partnership has provided high-achieving African American students from HBCU institutions with opportunities and mentoring to help them find and succeed in graduate-level research programs in the STEM disciplines.
IU President Michael A. McRobbie recently signed a memorandum of agreement with North Carolina A&T State University President Harold Martin that will open participation to selected individuals from that institution's 10,500-student body.
"We welcome our colleagues at North Carolina A&T State University into this important undertaking," McRobbie said. "By expanding our partnerships with our historically black colleges and universities, Indiana University is making good on its long-standing commitment to encouraging and helping students from under-represented minorities to pursue a graduate education in the STEM disciplines."
"We are very excited about this new strategic collaboration that will provide students from North Carolina A&T State University as well as other historically black colleges and universities a competitive edge in this global society as they pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)," said Harold L. Martin Sr., chancellor of North Carolina A&T.
Each summer, undergraduate students from HBCU institutions have participated in a Summer Scholars Institute and conducted research in the laboratories of faculty mentors at IU Bloomington and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). They then present their research at the annual Summer Research Opportunities Program of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC).
North Carolina A&T University joins other partner institutions Alabama A&M, Clark Atlanta, Hampton, Jackson State, Langston, Morgan State, North Carolina Central and Tennessee State universities, as well as Bennett College for Women, Morehouse College and Xavier University of Louisiana.
Edwin Marshall, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, said the Greensboro, N.C.-based, university is a good fit because of its own STEM activities. For example, several of its students already have participated informally with IU-HBCU STEM summer programs and have been on campus for other similar activities.
Marshall said the initiative's ultimate goal is to increase the number of black faculty and academic researchers traditionally underrepresented in the STEM disciplines, who also serve as mentors and role models for others.
"According to a recent survey by the Bayer Corp., a lot of students have been deterred from pursuing careers within the STEM disciplines by their faculty and others within their academic pipeline, not because the student showed a poor acumen or was performing poorly in class, but because of non-validated information suggesting that they do something else," Marshall said. "I don't think this is done intentionally to keep students out, but a lot of faculty might think they are doing the student a favor by guiding them to areas that are a little softer."
"As we have seen with the students coming here, there is often a tendency to underestimate what they can do and contribute," he said, adding that involvement of IU faculty partners with the STEM Initiative has caused them to "become some of our biggest supporters."
"If we can increase the number of faculty in the STEM disciplines who come from similar backgrounds, and who can reflect on their own paths to achievement, it will help lead to more students following in their footsteps."
Of the 61 scholars who have participated in the IU-HBCU STEM Initiative, 25 of the 40 who have graduated so far have enrolled in master's and Ph.D. programs around the country, including at IU. In 2008 one of the students who participated during the first year enrolled at IU as a doctoral student in neuroscience and received support from the Herbert Presidential Fellows Program.
In April, IU President McRobbie and North Carolina A&T President Martin will host the CEOs of the IU-HBCU partner institutions on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University to discuss the future direction for the consortium, which could include even more student scholars, new research collaborations involving students and perhaps faculty exchanges. About 70 faculty members and administrators were involved in the original planning process.
Marshall said the IU-HBCU STEM Initiative also has helped IU to identify other activities at IU Bloomington and IUPUI and tie in those programs to the STEM Initiative.
"We're developing a nexus of activity with the STEM Summer Scholars program just being one component," he said. "Many of the current ideas and concepts around collaboration might not have existed but for what we've seen happen the last four years.
"Understanding comes with conversation, so when you have students and faculty from different backgrounds and perspectives working side-by-side in a laboratory setting over the course of eight weeks, there's greater understanding and appreciation of each other," Marshall said. "The more that we can do to bring various cultures together, the better we are able to advance understanding, not just around STEM, but many other social issues as well."
More information about the IU-HBCU STEM Initiative is available at http://www.stem.indiana.edu/.