Spelman College has announced that it recently received a $2 million grant from the Department of Defense to create the Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM.
The college said in a news release on September 3 that the center will be affiliated with its Office of Research, Innovation, and Collaboration and is the first of its type to serve as a hub for all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) undergraduate research and training activities at the Atlanta college.
“The Center aligns with the College’s strategic priorities and ensures that our students are empowered and equipped to enter competitive STEM fields,” said Spelman president Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell in a statement. “We are honored to be awarded this grant, and to have the support of the Department of Defense in assisting Spelman in fulfilling its mission to diversify STEM.”
Associate provost for research, Dr. Tasha Inniss, said the new center will address minority under-representation in STEM fields, with a focus on computer science, mathematics and physics.
“Spelman has a strong record of educating women in STEM disciplines; however, there is still a lack of representation among women of color in STEM-related careers,” said Inniss in a statement.
The new center will offer three forms of collaboration with students, faculty members, and Department of Defense personnel, including research support, academic enrichment, and mentorship opportunities. The grant will also allow the center to begin an annual Women in STEM Speaker series, “designed to increase knowledge among faculty, staff, and students about emerging areas, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science.”
“Our overall goal is to increase the skills of our students and resources for our faculty,” Inniss said.
The college noted that over the past three years, there has been an increase in students pursuing STEM majors at the college. In 2017, 26 percent of Spelman students graduated with a STEM degree, compared to 16 percent of graduates from other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Spelman is also part of a new initiative with the Atlanta University Center Consortium that trains students to fill the increasing demand for data scientists and data analytics experts.
In May, Spelman College announced a new scholarship initiative with Booking.com, which would help bridge the gender gap in technology fields by providing female students with funding for STEM education. The scholarship initiative will benefit over 30 undergraduate and postgraduate women studying STEM-related fields like computer and information science, engineering, technology, and mathematics in the US and India.
“At a time when technology is critical to global markets and pervasive in our daily lives, we are excited about the opportunities our STEM students will receive via the Booking.com Women in Tech Scholarships,” Campbell said in a previous statement. “Financial support and career development activities, such as mentoring by Booking.com employees, will help ensure that these students graduate with a competitive edge.”
“Prepared for life and careers as masters of technology, these students will enter the workforce and increase the number of African American women, who are currently drastically underrepresented in the STEM fields.”
During that same month, California Senator Kamala Harris introduced a bill that would help provide educational opportunities in STEM fields for students of color. Called the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act, it will provide funding for STEM education programs for girls, LGBTQ students, students of color, and students with disabilities. In a previous statement, Harris said the US is projected to have a shortage of about one million STEM professionals by 2025, and she wants to ensure that people of color and minorities are represented in the field.
The proposed bill would create a $40 million competitive grant program for school districts to promote STEM education by providing mentoring, tutoring, and after-school programs to help spark interest in STEM subjects.
“When we have more women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and people with disabilities in STEM jobs, we get better results,” Harris said in a previous statement. “Preparing our nation’s students for the jobs of the 21st century starts in the classroom, and we must ensure that the benefits of that education are shared equally with those who are currently underrepresented in STEM professions.”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.