Auburn University professor secures an additional $5 million to increase diversity in STEM workforce

Published: August 03, 2017
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Auburn University’s Overtoun Jenda, assistant provost for Special Projects and Initiatives and professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, has secured an additional $5 million from the National Science Foundation for a five-year project to diversify the workforce in the Black Belt region of Alabama.

The goal is to increase the number of students from historically underrepresented groups who receive undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Jenda had previously secured $5 million in funding for projects to increase diversity in the STEM workforce, bringing his total to $10 million in the last year.

The most recent grant is part of the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, which helps universities and colleges diversify the nation’s STEM workforce by increasing the number of baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented in STEM disciplines, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Native Pacific Islanders.

“Since 1991, LSAMP has been a flagship program of the NSF, and Auburn has been a member of LSAMP since 1994,” said Jenda. “LSAMP is well known for its success in producing minority STEM degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

Jenda will administer funding from the NSF LSAMP grant to benefit the Greater Alabama Black Belt Region Alliance, which consists of eight partner institutions: Auburn University, Auburn University Montgomery, Alabama State University, Enterprise State Community College, Southern Union State Community College, Troy University, Tuskegee University and the University of West Alabama.

Scholars at the partner institutions will receive benefits including scholarships, peer mentoring, free tutoring, research internships, travel to research conferences, collegiate success preparation, participation in enrichment programs and academies, study abroad opportunities, mathematics enrichment initiatives and access to several academic workshops. Each year, funding from the grant will impact more than 275 minority undergraduate and graduate students, and upwards of 200 high school students throughout the Greater Alabama Black Belt Region.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to bring this program to Alabama’s Black Belt region, and having Auburn University as the lead institution is truly an honor,” said Jenda. “We are looking forward to working with our partner institutions to implement these activities that will lead to more STEM degrees and a more highly qualified workforce for the Black Belt region.”

Working with Jenda from Auburn University on the Greater Alabama Black Belt Region LSAMP Alliance is Ash Abebe, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and Edward Thomas, associate dean for research in the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the Lawrence C. Wit Professor and Charles W. Barkley Endowed Professor in the Department of Physics.

The program will begin this fall semester at all eight alliance institutions.

Since fall 2016, Jenda has secured approximately $10 million in grant funding to assist underserved and underrepresented students pursuing careers in STEM disciplines, including two additional grants from the National Science Foundation, an NSF INCLUDES award (http://auburn.edu/cosam/news/articles/2016/09/auburn-university-among-first-time-recipients-of-national-science-foundations-new-includes-program-awards.htm) and an NSF MAKERS grant (https://www.auburn.edu/cosam/news/articles/2016/11/auburn-university-faculty-receive-2-million-from-national-science-foundation-for-scholarships-for-low-income-students.htm).

For more information about the Greater Alabama Black Belt Region LSAMP Alliance, including the informational flier and online application form, go to https://cws.auburn.edu/apspi/pm/LSAMP. For more information on the National Science Foundation’s LSAMP program, go to https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=13646. Additional inquiries may be directed to lsamp@auburn.edu.