The Model Institutions for Excellence Program (MIE) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed a body of work over the past 11 years demonstrating successful strategies for recruiting underrepresented minority students to science and engineering fields and supporting their successful completion of science degrees.
Five minority-serving institutions--Bowie State University in Maryland, Spelman College in Atlanta, Universidad Metropolitana in Puerto Rico, the University of Texas at El Paso, and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans--plus the Oyate Consortium, representing three tribal colleges in the Midwest, are MIE's participating institutions.
Their collective results show that underrepresented minority students' enrolling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) coursework increased at a higher rate than total STEM enrollment. Meanwhile, the total number of bachelor's STEM degrees conferred increased by 44 percent, from 691 in the 1994-1995 academic year to 994 in 2004-2005.
These results are noteworthy in light of the fact that over nearly 40 years, the percentage of bachelor's degrees awarded in science and engineering (out of all fields of study) has remained static at about 32-35 percent. MIE helps address a national concern about maintaining a pipeline of trained scientists that are needed to make the discoveries that will spark innovations in national security, healthcare and industry--supporting the quality of life of all citizens.
"MIE has provided an unprecedented opportunity to form partnerships and focus on national needs through the lens of historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges and universities," says David Temple, MIE program manager at NSF. "We now have the institutional answer to the question of how to recruit these students, support their needs, provide curriculum and institutional support and help them plan for their post-undergraduate lives."
Among the keys to the MIE program's success are helping to bridge the transition from high school to college through training of elementary, middle school and high school teachers and offering summer orientation programs. Once students are in college, mentoring programs, tutoring, opportunities for group study, and advice on financial aid options help students stay engaged in science and engineering studies. With the help of faculty and the business community, students are encouraged to become directly involved in ongoing research.
Meanwhile, faculty are developed and mentored, curricula are aligned with accepted content standards and courses are developed that are relevant to the marketplace, community and student population. Physical infrastructure is upgraded and maintained, including the provision of modern laboratories, state-of-the art equipment and meeting and study spaces for students. Finally, students receive assistance for the future, whether it encompasses graduate study or career, through help with the graduate school admissions process, information on trends in STEM fields, and job placement services.
The MIE Fact Book 2005, developed under an NSF grant to Systemic Research, Inc., provides detailed results about each institution's recruitment and support of students and faculty.
Among its findings:
At Bowie State University, a focus on technology -- including the development of an undergraduate computer technology program and a graduate program in applied and computational mathematics, along with improvements to the technological infrastructure -- resulted in a 131 percent increase in students enrolled in computer science and a 257 percent increase in computer science graduates.
Among institutions in the Oyate Consortium (Oglala Lakota College, Sisseton Wahpeton College, and Sitting Bull College), there had been no STEM degrees offered prior to MIE implementation. With the development of accredited baccalaureate programs and associate level degree programs in several STEM fields, plus trained faculty, state-of-the-art research instrumentation and 450 computers, among other resources, there have been as many as 190 students enrolled in STEM courses.
Prior to participating in MIE, the Universidad Metropolitana (UMET) was a teaching institution serving low-income Puerto Ricans. Through the MIE, UMET has a STEM infrastructure, a Bridge to Graduate School program and other strategies to support science students in pursuing research and advanced study. The MIE program is responsible for creating nearly 600 research opportunities for undergraduate STEM students over a 10-year period, collaborating with more than a hundred institutions worldwide.
"While there is no 'one size fits all' approach to attract and retain minority students, both minority and non-minority institutions can learn a lot from the strategies adopted by the Model Institutions of Excellence," says Temple.
To leverage the results of the MIE program throughout the academic community, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) was awarded a grant to help disseminate best practices learned from the program. IHEP's work culminated in a national report, A Model of Success: The Model Institutions for Excellence Program's Successful Leadership in STEM Education, which is available at http://www.ihep.org/.
"IHEP is making a pilot effort to replicate what the MIEs have done, using the MIEs as consultants and learning from their experience," says Jamie P. Merisotis, IHEP president.
MIE also funded the creation of the Science Diversity Center (http://sciencediversitycenter.org/), The center is a Web-based comprehensive one-stop STEM educational resource tool designed to help federal agencies that fund STEM education initiatives share timely program and project information in a user-friendly format with students and others; share information on strategies that address the nation's STEM workforce needs, and foster increased participation in STEM fields by individuals from groups currently underrepresented in STEM.
However, the program's legacy will not end there.
"I realized that we needed a follow-up evaluation piece showing us what had been the impact of the program for the students who went through it," says Temple. "So we are working with the American Institute for Research to do a follow-on study. We will locate graduates who took part in the MIE program between 2003 and 2006 and find out what they're doing now. Where are they with their education or career? Did they go into STEM fields? Did they go into Ph.D. programs? How did the preparation they received help them? These will be very interesting results."