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WMU part of statewide effort to boost STEM leadership

Feb. 4, 2011

KALAMAZOO--Michigan's four flagship universities and nine top community colleges are embarking on a newly expanded collaboration to accelerate statewide development of leaders in science, technology, engineering and math--known as STEM programs.

At a Feb. 3 kickoff event on the Lansing Community College campus, the institutions announced the reauthorization and expansion of the Michigan-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation--MI-LSAMP. The program is part of a national initiative named for the Ohio political figure who spent 30 years in Congress championing the causes of civil rights and social and economic justice.

Western Michigan University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University established the MI-LSAMP in 2005, with support from the National Science Foundation. They committed to significantly increase the number of underrepresented minority students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

"This effort allows us to capitalize on the fact that the development of human capital is all about talent and helping talented young people contribute to our society in ways that tap their true potential," WMU President John M. Dunn says of the initiative. "Rep. Louis Stokes championed that idea during his years in public service, and the success we've seen over the past five years is a tribute to that vision."

In addition to remarks from leaders of alliance partners, Thursday's festivities included comments from NSF officials and the viewing of student projects showcasing the work of STEM students from partner institutions. Those included poster presentations by WMU students Abdeel Khan, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, and Natasha Wadhwa, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences. Khan's project investigated neural cell activity in relation to spinal cord injury, while Wadhwa studied the synthesis of a material that not only would be lightweight and flexible, but one of the toughest ever made.

The newly expanded MI-LSAMP is positioned to accelerate workforce development in fields crucial to the state's technology economy. During MI-LSAMP's Phase I (2005–10), award of these baccalaureates increased by nearly 50 percent. In Phase II, nine of Michigan's top community colleges are joining the alliance. Community college partners are: Grand Rapids Community College; Kalamazoo Valley Community College; Kellogg Community College; Lake Michigan College; Lansing Community College; Macomb Community College; Muskegon Community College; Washtenaw Community College; and Wayne County Community College District.

"Our state and nation need all the talented college graduates we can produce. Just last week, President Obama said that for America to compete globally, our nation must 'out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.' LSAMP answers that challenge, and we look forward to continued success at colleges and universities across Michigan," says Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan and principal investigator on the NSF grant.

During Phase I, MI-LSAMP scholars engaged in opportunities that included: a pre-first-year program to prepare for rigorous curricula as incoming freshmen, undergraduate research assistanceships, and internships and cooperative education experiences. Phase II will continue these programs and initiatives and add collaborations with the new community college members of the alliance.

More information on the MI-LSAMP program is available online at: www.engin.umich.edu/students/mi-lsamp.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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