N.C. A&T Uses National Science Foundation Grant to Diversify STEM Workforce

By Jackie Torok / 11/29/2022 Academic Affairs, The Graduate College

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Nov. 29, 2022) – Understanding the need for a student development model that contributes to the diversification of the nation’s STEM workforce, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is using a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to implement the Preparing Future Minority Ph.D. Researcher (PFMPR) Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) program.

N.C. A&T received the two-year, $1,075,000 grant under the auspices of the NSF’s North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation STEM Pathways and Research Alliance (NC-LSAMP SPRA). The vision of this grant is to provide a national model to produce underrepresented scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees in STEM. The goal of the PFMPR Bridge to the Doctorate program is to increase the quantity and quality of STEM graduate students from underrepresented populations, with emphasis on Ph.D. matriculation and completion.

The university will utilize a comprehensive set of initiatives to support BD Fellows beyond the NSF BD funding period to provide a foundation to support student success in obtaining a Ph.D. in a STEM discipline. The PRMPR is designed to attract, retain and graduate a cohort of 12 underrepresented Ph.D. students in STEM disciplines who will be equipped with the requisite career readiness skills and self-efficacy needed to not only enter but excel as engaged, contributing members of the STEM workforce.

The project includes a carefully selected combination of proven and promising strategies that reflect both the evidence in the literature and prior successes with graduate students at A&T. In implementing and accessing the impact of the BD program, A&T will contribute to the advancement of knowledge regarding successfully cultivating researcher identity among underrepresented minorities (URMs) at the graduate level.

“Our approach is to diversify STEM doctoral degree holders in the U.S., with a specific focus on URMs,” said Tonya Smith-Jackson, Ph.D., provost and executive vice chancellor of Academic Affairs, the program’s principal investigator (PI).

“Integration with LSAMP programs and STEM feeder schools will enhance our recruitment of well-prepared undergraduate students who will enter and complete our doctoral programs,” she said. “The culturally reflective mentoring will fill a critical gap in how universities meet the needs of all doctoral students by advancing retention practices and building social capital.”

BD Fellows will participate in a structured hands-on N.C. A&T-developed training process to increase the quantity and quality of fellowship applications, particularly to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and other prestigious fellowships.

“As the largest historically Black university in the nation, N.C. A&T educates a significant number of URMs at the undergraduate level and thus has a tremendous opportunity to launch, test, and refine a framework of support for transitioning students into doctoral programs,” said Clay Gloster, Ph.D., vice provost of graduate research and Graduate College dean, the program’s co-PI. “We are implementing a model that can be evaluated, refined, and disseminated to other LSAMP BD institutions.”

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu

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