UB leads SUNY effort to increase STEM degrees for underrepresented students


Sergio Rosa, a chemical engineering major, conducted research in the lab of Professor John Atkinson as part of UB's LSAMP Summer Research Program. Photo: School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Published December 7, 2016

Internships. Tutoring. Summer research opportunities. Networking.

These are just a few of the ways UB is creating new opportunities for underrepresented students to earn degrees in science and engineering fields.

These experiences and the program that supports them, SUNY’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, recently received a five-year, $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation. UB will receive $455,858 as one of the SUNY university centers involved in the program.

“Building a diverse STEM workforce is of critical importance for our national economy, creating the broadest possible talent pool for our companies to draw upon and a rich pool of STEM entrepreneurs to create new businesses,” says Liesl Folks, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Our continued leadership in the SUNY LSAMP program allows us to promote the pursuit of engineering education to all those who have been historically underrepresented within our disciplines.”

The grant will help UB to continue to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) earned by underrepresented minority students.

“During this grant cycle, the UB LSAMP program is looking to increase student retention and success with new academic initiatives,” says Letitia Thomas, director of STEM diversity programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and UB LSAMP project director. “We will focus on student improvement and success in STEM introductory courses, including math, chemistry and physics.”

Over the next five years, UB will focus on three goals: meeting the continuing challenge of preparing underrepresented students for a successful transition into STEM majors; providing experimental activities that lead to socialization into science; and promoting systemic change by broadening participation in research.

SUNY Buffalo State also has joined the alliance, enabling deeper collaboration and opportunities for students in Western New York.

Created in 1996, the SUNY LSAMP program has been a leader in STEM education. It is a synergistic collaboration and alliance of 14 SUNY schools with a diverse mix of academic strengths and capabilities. The result has been an 11-fold increase in STEM enrollment for minority students in comparison to the previous 20 years in the state. The program also has helped increase the number of STEM bachelor’s degrees awarded by almost 300 percent. During the past five years, the program has been a catalyst in helping to nearly double the number of underrepresented community college students transferring to four-year STEM undergraduate programs.

The National Science Foundation has supported the SUNY LSAMP program since its inception. This latest grant is the fifth round of funding and will build upon and fine-tune the Fostering STEM Identity through Transitions (FIT) model that will conduct an in-depth, theory-driven examination of the pivotal experiences that lead to engagement, retention and overall success of underrepresented STEM college students.