WCC joins consortium to increase minority participation in STEM fields

Published on Jun 9, 2017 1:58pm by Richard Rezler, Public Relations

Washtenaw Community College is among a consortium of six post-secondary institutions in Michigan awarded a five-year, $4.25 million grant by the National Science Foundation to help increase participation and graduation rates among underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, otherwise known as MI-LSAMP, includes the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, Mott Community College and WCC.

This is the third time the MI-LSAMP has been awarded the NSF grant, but the first time community colleges have been part of the effort. In a previous phase of the program, the four universities increased the number of underrepresented minority students that graduated with degrees in STEM fields from 423 in 2011 to 653 in 2016.

“Fostering these kinds of collaborative relationships – not only between community colleges and universities, but also with high schools and other community partners – will help build all the scaffolding that is needed for these students to be academically prepared and ready to succeed,” said Life Sciences faculty member Susan Dentel, the co-principle investigator of the grant at WCC.

Dentel added that the program will include several layers of mentoring for students, plus a system of financial, academic and emotional support that will continue to be available even after they transfer to one of the four universities.

WCC will recruit its first cohort of students for enrollment in the summer of 2018. Those students will participate in an academic-intensive summer bridge program between high school and their first year at WCC, again between their first and second years at WCC, and yet again during the summer between WCC and transferring to a four-year institution. The programs are designed to acclimate students with the academic and environmental aspects of post-secondary education.

“Community colleges remain the primary entry point into post-secondary education for students of color,” said Clarence Jennings, Dean of Student Access, Success, Equality and Inclusion. “With the MI-LSAMP, WCC will prepare minority students interested in STEM related careers for academic success and completion.”

Derrick Scott, director of inclusion and multicultural engineering programs for the Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach at the University of Michigan, has been involved with MI-LSAMP for more than a decade. He began his role as the executive director of the consortium this year.

"The overall goal of the MI-LSAMP is to significantly increase the number of minority students earning degrees in STEM fields and to further prepare them for entry into graduate programs or the professional workplace. We want to cultivate a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce and expand the scientific literacy of all citizens," Scott said in a University of Michigan release. "So we're focusing on comprehensive support programs and mentored research to help bolster retention and graduation rates among underrepresented students, while also increasing the transfer rate of underrepresented students from community colleges to four-year programs and helping those students matriculate into graduate programs."

WCC also recently joined the National Consortium on College Men of Color (NCCMC), which is housed by the Community College Equity Assessment Lab. That group of community colleges from across the nation shares best practices on how to best serve men of color in educational institutions.

“These new initiatives align with WCC’s commitment to increase access to post-secondary education options and increasing the retention and graduation rates of minority students,” said Jennings.

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