STEMPREP Project receives $3.87 million grant

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The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) awarded the STEMPREP Project at SMU a $3.87 million grant to “support its goal of increasing the number of minorities in STEM fields” in July.

According to eCampus News, the U.S. Department of Defense’s grant is a follow up from a $2.6 million grant given in 2014.

The STEMPREP Project, centered at the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development “recruits bright, science-minded middle school students for the first phase of the 10-year program.”

One hundred seventh and eighth grade minority students live in residential commons for six weeks to study “college-level biology, chemistry, statistics and research writing and presentation classes, laboratory techniques courses and the creation of a final in-depth research presentation on a disease.”

The goal of the STEMPREP Project is to create more diversity in STEM fields.

According a report from the Executive Office of the President, 21 percent of Hispanic men and 28 percent of black men have a college degree by their late twenties compared to nearly half of white men. The 2013 U.S. Census Bureau reports that African Americans make up 11 percent of the U.S. workforce but only 6 percent of STEM workers. Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. workforce, but just 7 percent of the STEM workforce.

Students enrolling in the STEMPREP Project have a high likelihood of success. According to the STEMPREP Project, 100 percent of their students who complete the program attend college; moreover, 83 percent go on to graduate school to become physicians, pharmacists, dentists, researchers or engineers.

Charles Knibb, STEMPREP director of academic affairs, SMU research professor and former surgeon advocates for the program.

“Being in this program empowers students,” says Knibb.

The success of the STEMPREP program and support for minority students to study STEM fields is credited to Moses Williams. Williams founded the program in 1990 and is currently the executive director.

“As a gatekeeper, I realized there were not a lot of minorities being considered,” he says. “I wanted to change that.”

He compares the program to training young athletes – identify talent early and then nurture it through practice and coaching.

To learn more about the STEMPREP Project, please visit their website.

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