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New partnership seeks more minorities in science, math

Jan. 23, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Michigan's four flagship universities joined today at the University of Michigan Detroit Center to announce their new partnership in the Michigan-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, a federal initiative designed to attract and retain underrepresented minorities to science, technology, engineering and math--known as STEM programs

The five-year, $5 million program is funded by the National Science Foundation, with a 100-percent combined match from the four alliance partners: University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. The alliance formed to help meet state and national needs for a trained STEM workforce.

During a kickoff event, Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, WMU President Judith I. Bailey, and other leaders from alliance partners and the NSF launched the partnership and viewed an exhibit of student projects showing the work of STEM students from all four partner schools.

The four partner schools hope to increase the number of under-represented minorities earning baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math areas by 50 percent in five years, and by 100 percent in 10 years. The alliance goals dovetail with Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to double the number of Michigan residents who earn college degrees over the next decade. Her goal reflects statewide needs outlined in the 2004 report compiled by Lt. Gov. John Cherry's Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth, which found that Michigan trails in the number of adults with college degrees.

"Too few people study and work in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our country and our state are in desperate need of these skills," said Coleman, who served as chair of the Cherry Commission's Economic Benefits Work Group, and is principal investigator on MI-LSAMP. "We must find students with interest and talent in these fields, encourage them, and make sure there is a pathway for them to follow. We have to remove the barriers that exist for women and minorities, because we cannot afford to waste their potential. The alliance partnership, with the assistance of the National Science Foundation, will apply the assets of these four leading institutions to nurture this talent."

For underrepresented minorities, the numbers are even lower than those cited by the Cherry Commission. To reverse that trend, the alliance universities will establish a student ambassadors program; collaborate with other STEM groups such as the American Chemical Society; make it easier to earn dual degrees in STEM areas; develop pre-first year summer transition programs; involve more undergraduate students in research projects; and increase participation in MI-LSAMP internships and residential learning programs.

"Science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees are the credentials that will ensure promising futures for our young people and prosperity for our state," said WMU President Judith I. Bailey. "I'm absolutely delighted that Michigan's four flagship universities will be working together to break down barriers, increase academic support and ensure every student has a chance to be part of the prosperous 21st-century Michigan we're building together."

At WMU, the project will be led by Raja Aravamuthan, professor of paper engineering, chemical engineering and imaging. One of the major LSAMP initiatives on the WMU campus will be a summer pre-first-year program in science aimed at incoming freshmen from underrepresented minorities. Pre-first-year programs in other STEM areas will be offered at the other three alliance schools.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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