Making STEM Inclusive — The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation

by M’Niyah Lynn

The National Science Foundation (NSF) created the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) to serve minority students in universities and colleges by increasing the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees awarded to them. The current LSAMP program was implemented as an alliance composed of colleges from across the City University of New York (CUNY). Students at the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York (CCNY) are creating a supportive school community and making strides in their STEM journeys because of the program.

Courtesy of CCNY

Alison Conway is a faculty coordinator for the LSAMP at CCNY and is a Professor of Civil Engineering at City College. She has a Ph.D., M.S. and Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering. She co-leads CCNY’s LSAMP program with Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Umit Uyar. Conway’s responsibilities include matching students with research mentors in their field of interest, meeting with students to discuss research progress, and organizing seminars for the students on the practice of research and on general professional development topics.

The historically underrepresented students that LSAMP seeks to include are Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Pacific Islanders, African Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives. Through the LSAMP fellowship, students are provided mentorship, hands-on experience doing research and training opportunities that can push them to graduate and work in STEM jobs.

Engineering is applied math and science to solve practical problems and we’re solving problems for the whole community. When you don’t involve diverse perspectives in the development of those solutions, you don’t end up with very good ones.

At the heart of LSAMP is giving students a head start in research because that’s when they start taking applied science courses—making the program stand out from other ones at CCNY. “Part of the purpose for that is to help students connect with their technical material that they’re learning in class early to help improve retention.”

Due to the pandemic, the program timeline has varied, with students conducting research and work both remotely and in labs, and working both during the summer and during the academic year. Academic year seminars focused on the practice of research, while summer seminars have focused on professional development and research deliverables.

Student involvement in research varies. They work with faculty mentors in labs at campus research centers and are awarded a $3,000 stipend. “Some students are working on things like literature reviews where they’re looking at a big scope of a problem, while others are very much in the lab running tests and others are doing data analysis.”

In addition, building connections with faculty and graduate students is another important aspect of LSAMP. Specifically, monthly meetings are spaces where people involved in the fellowship can talk about research and ethics. 

Because LSAMP is targeted for sophomores, the fellowship prepares students to move on to other programs offered at CCNY, such as the CIPASS Program and the FHWA Eisenhower Fellowships Program. Also, LSAMP collaborates with these other programs for joint activities – for example, students from all programs will present their work at the Summer Research Symposium.

“[LSAMP] establishes a groundwork for students to advance by the time they graduate as seniors; they have good experience that helps set them apart from other job applicants.”

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