N.C. A&T-led Team Awarded $238K to Address Barriers to STEM Workforce Diversity

By Jamie Crockett / 07/22/2020 College of Science and Technology

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (July 22, 2020) – To learn more about the impact service learning, course-based research experiences (SL-CURE) can have on students, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $238,214 to researchers in the College of Science and Technology (CoST) at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The funding will support a collaborative research project across multiple institutions to study a hybrid course designed to influence students from various disciplines and their perceptions, interests and motivations to pursue careers in STEM and research.

“Students from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds who value communal goals find it challenging to make the connection to how their research efforts can help others,” said Kelsie Bernot, Ph.D., lead principal investigator and CoST associate professor. “There’s no question that we need to increase diversity in science and a course like this is a really great learning opportunity for those students who want to give back to their communities and are interested in STEM fields.”

The SL-CURE course exemplifies the university’s land-grant mission to provide students with learning and research opportunities resulting in innovative solutions for global challenges.  

Bernot will collaborate with co-principal investigators Angela White, Ph.D., CoST assistant dean of student success, Michele Malotky, Ph.D., at Guilford College, Maura Nsonwu, Ph.D., at NC State University and Mike Wilton, Ph.D., and Eduardo Gonzalez, Ph.D., at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Over the next three years, the team will explore not just what course elements work for students to make progress, but why they work in order to be implemented effectively in other communities. They will design and assess interventions that will help students reframe research efforts as engaging, directly impactful and collaborative rather than isolated and individualistic.

The NSF project will build upon seven years of research and observation of Bernot and Malotky’s SL-CURE course, initially funded by the National Center for Science & Civic Engagement and the former A&T College of Arts and Sciences Innovation Award. The pair guided A&T and Guilford College students as they participated in health disparities research while engaging the local community.

Bernot and Malotky discovered that not only did students’ critical thinking and scientific skills improve, but also their ability to work and communicate with individuals from different backgrounds. Along with student and community co-authors, Bernot and Malotky published these observations in the paper, “Fostering inclusion through an inter-institutional, community-engaged, course-based undergraduate research experience.” The article was published as part of a special themed issue Inclusive Science in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education (JMBE).

To read more about Bernot and Malotky’s findings, visit the JMBE website.

Media Contact Information: jicrockett@ncat.edu

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