Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A One-Stop Shop

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A One-Stop Shop

Article excerpt

Funding and research opportunities are available for STEM faculty and students at minority-serving institutions, and one Web site provides access to this information.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina and its resulting floodwaters devastated the microbiology research laboratory that Dr. Tanya McKinney had established at Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically Black institution in New Orleans. She says it will take hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years to fully re-establish the lab, but she's had little time to find the federal grants she needs to get it in working order.

Last spring, while at a National Science Foundation conference for science research professors, McKinney learned about the Science Diversity Center, a Web-based portal that has consolidated information on all the federal research funding targeted to faculty members at minority-serving institutions, or MSIs. Almost immediately, McKinney says she recognized the resource as one answer to her dilemma. Developed with backing from the National Science Foundation, the SDC has been unofficially up and running since last year, and helps faculty members, administrators and students save time in researching opportunities targeted towards minorities in the STEM disciplines - science, technology, engineering and math.

"Though I still haven't had the time to apply for grants given that we are still coming back from Katrina, I'm checking the Science Diversity Center at least once a week," McKinney says. "Rather than spend hours going through the general science grant Web sites, the Science Diversity Center allows me to find those specific opportunities aimed at minority-serving schools, such as Xavier."

Dr. William E. McHenry, SDC's chief developer, says that the center is comprehensive enough to help majority White schools develop programs and launch outreach efforts with the nation's MSIs.

"We've tried to make this resource as far reaching as we possibly could," McHenry says.

McKinney and others say it's particularly useful that the SDC site includes details about the nearly 6,000 research awards that have been made to tribal colleges, Hispanicserving institutions and HBCUs over the years. That history, according to McKinney, helps her gain a strategic understanding of what federal agencies are looking for, and allows her to see which schools SDC has already partnered with. The site, officially launched on Feb. 28, was established with roughly $800,000 in funding from the NSF's Model Institutions for Excellence programs.

Keeping Score

NSF officials say SDC builds on the success that MSIs have had in recent decades sending undergraduates into STEM graduate studies and developing their own STEM graduate programs. Fifty years after desegregation, HBCUs remain the largest producer of Black STEM professionals. The 10 accredited HBCU engineering schools, which represent only 3 percent of all accredited engineering schools, confer more than 30 percent of all engineering bachelor's degrees awarded to Blacks. And more than 25 percent of Blacks receiving doctorates in engineering earned their bachelors degrees from HBCUs as well.

David L Temple, the program director for NSF's Model Institutions for Excellence, says federal administrators recognized a few years ago that they needed better coordination with MSIs to keep up with the progress those schools were making in developing STEM research and graduate degree programs. …

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