ATLANTA—Morehouse College has received a $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation as a founding partner of the HBCU Undergraduate Success Research Center, an initiative designed to increase educational and employment opportunities for minorities interested in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The center, known as “STEM-US,” will study impactful STEM initiatives at 50 HBCUs, and produce data and a set of best practices that can be duplicated on a national scale to help mainstream state institutions and other liberal arts colleges graduate more minority STEM majors. Researchers with the Morehouse-based center will investigate how and why HBCUs individually and collectively are so successful in supporting the nation’s broadening participation efforts in STEM, as well as what systems or programs exist at HBCUs that facilitate this success.
Morehouse is the nation’s top producer of Black men who go on to receive doctorates in STEM fields. Nationally, one-third of all Black students who have earned doctorates graduated with bachelor’s degrees from HBCUs.
Morehouse is sharing part of the grant with Spelman College and Virginia State University. Professors at the HBCUs will assist with STEM-US research. The work of the center will help to ensure that HBCUs play a leading role in revamping STEM education both locally and nationally.
“Investing in the institutional capacity of HBCUs and developing diverse STEM talent is part of NSF’s longstanding commitment to broaden participation of groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM,” said NSF Program Director Claudia Rankins, who manages the HBCU program. “The knowledge generated by this center will detail what practices make HBCUs successful in educating Black students in STEM, and the center will place HBCUs at the forefront of STEM education reform.”
STEM-US will conduct several initial research projects, including a case study of 25 HBCUs, and studies on the scientific literacy necessary for success in STEM. Its research will be accomplished in part by using a psychological approach to examine the experiences of STEM students that are developmentally linked and culturally sensitive. The center will also award stipends to students pursuing academic research in STEM.
“I am pleased that the NSF agrees with our vision that the success of STEM programs at Morehouse and other HBCUs should have a broader impact on STEM literacy, persistence, and diversity,” said Morehouse Provost Michael E. Hodge. “This center will become a national hub for collaboration, research, and resources for successful STEM outcomes because it is designed within a culturally relevant framework focusing on assets and not deficits.”
Morehouse College administrator Dr. Lycurgus Muldrow, the executive director of STEM-US, said the grant will continue to raise the profile of STEM programs at HBCUs.
“The grant will allow us to understand and tell the stories in HBCU STEM education, for us and the nation, thereby documenting the legacy of excellence in STEM education at HBCUs,” said Muldrow, who also serves as a director in the Office of Academic Affairs. “The grant will also allow us to contribute to future educational innovations in the computer sciences, in scientific literary, and in research teaching laboratories.
“It will help us to continue to prepare students to enter into graduate school and careers in STEM education,” Muldrow added. “We have several students who went on to grad school this year. Three were accepted into Ph.D. programs.”