By: Ryley McGinnis
The Northeast Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participants (NELSAMP) has more than tripled STEM students from underrepresented backgrounds across six major northeastern universities. To continue diversifying STEM, the National Science Foundation renewed the alliance for the next five years with the University of Connecticut at the helm.
The Northeast alliance aims to recruit, retain, and support underrepresented students in STEM across UConn, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Northeastern University, University of Rhode Island, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Tufts University.
“At UConn, this grant spans across all STEM disciplines, including engineering,” said Daniel Burkey, UConn Engineering’s associate dean for undergraduate education and diversity. “It brings students into STEM and helps them get their bachelor of science degrees through mentorship and access to opportunities.”
NELSAMP was formed in 2001, and UConn became the lead institution of the northeast region in 2016, requiring UConn to take charge in renewing the alliance, tracking and reporting its success, and managing the executive board with UConn Provost Carl Lejuez as the principal investigator. In the first five years, efforts have focused on giving students opportunities in international research, but the new installation will pivot towards career building and professional development initiatives. Programming will focus on three main themes: opportunity, identity, and partnership.
A new initiative to increase opportunities for NELSAMP participants called the STEM-ulate Post Graduate Outcomes Initiative creates new pathways for students to explore careers and graduate school in STEM. Through mentoring, workshops, and various lecture series, students will be well-equipped to join the STEM workforce or pursue their master’s and Ph.D.’s.
To strengthen the NELSAMP community and the identity of its scholars, the renewal will also expand First Year Experience programming to help integrate and prepare new students for success. And to increase partnerships and outreach, UConn and partner institutions will expand their engagement with community colleges and target those with high percentages of underrepresented minorities.
UConn’s LSAMP chapter is housed in the Institute for Student Success and managed by campus program coordinator Michael Petro. “Other NELSAMP institutions implement their programs differently, but at UConn, we are in the position where we get to make change across various schools and colleges since we are housed at the university level,” said Petro.
But all universities share the same goal: help orient underrepresented STEM students to get the knowledge and support they need to succeed in earning their Bachelor of Science degrees.
“Getting a bachelor of science in STEM is hard, the workload is significant at UConn, and we help them stay on course,” said Petro. “LSAMP does this by first providing each student with a faculty mentor. We’ve created a community of scholars who can help our students learn about the opportunities in their field.”
NELSAMP also provides access and funding to support student research opportunities to inspire students to pursue graduate school and give them the experience they need to do well. “We are developing well-rounded scholars in research and leadership, and these students stay connected after graduation, giving them a network of fellow alumni,” said Petro.
The five-year renewal shows a recommitment to this development and to diversify STEM. “Some of these students don’t see professors or role models like them, and with LSAMP, we are creating a new cycle of bringing different backgrounds into the field. Representation really matters,” said Burkey.
And for the next five years, UConn and the five other universities will continue building that representation. For more information on the NELSAMP program at UConn, please visit https://nelsamp.uconn.edu.