National Science Foundation Renews Funding for Upstate Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program

Funding for operating the Upstate Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (ULSAMP) program has been renewed, permitting Syracuse University to continue leading a seven-institution initiative to broaden educational opportunities for students from underrepresented communities to study and pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Tamara Hamilton
Tamara Hamilton

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the award of $2.5 million, the fourth time the ULSAMP program has been funded. Syracuse University leads the program, which also involves Clarkson University, Cornell University, Monroe Community College, Onondaga Community College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Rochester Institute of Technology.

The program promotes practices that increase the number of students from ULSAMP populations in STEM ajors; increases the number of underrepresented students entering STEM careers or graduate-level programs; and conducts and disseminates scholarly research to assess the impact of research experiences for undergraduates on their graduate enrollment and completion.

Vice Chancellor, Provost, and Chief Academic Officer Gretchen Ritter says, “Syracuse University is proud to have this important grant renewed for a fourth time. Its objectives mirror the University’s crucial missions to expand education in the STEM fields, broaden educational opportunities for underrepresented communities, boost levels of research and creative activity, and continue productive alliances with the wider community. We are proud to have led this initiative for 16 years now and to work with alliance partners on these important goals.”

School of Education Leadership

The University’s LSAMP program is housed in the School of Education’s Center for Academic Achievement and Student Development. The program has been highly successful in increasing the enrollment, retention, graduation, and graduate-school enrollment of underrepresented STEM students.

When the program began in 2007, ULSAMP institutions enrolled 1,943 underrepresented STEM students in undergraduate programs and awarded 249 bachelor’s degrees. By 2020, those numbers increased to 3,891 students enrolled and 700 degrees awarded, according to Tamara Hamilton, ULSAMP Co-principal Investigator and Program Director for the SU LSAMP program.

The renewed NSF funding is essential to the achievements of ULSAMP program, Hamilton says. “We are excited to be able to continue this great work. This funding has allowed us to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who are pursuing STEM fields, support student transition from community colleges to four-year institutions, boost undergraduate research and graduate school preparation, and provide students with leadership and professional development opportunities. Program funding has also helped us expand collaborations across our campuses and with our industry and government partners.”

Research Opportunities

The ULSAMP program operates several programs that encourage participation in robust research activities in the STEM fields. They include an undergraduate research program in which students participate in projects with distinguished faculty; a summer experience providing paid research experience and networking with faculty and staff; an annual symposium that recognizes elite scholars’ participation in research projects on and off campus; reimbursement of funds for students to travel to attend or present at conferences; and graduate school stipends for students pursuing master’s and doctoral programs.

The factors that lead students to decide to continue studying in the STEM fields also is the subject of a current School of Education faculty research project, according to Hamilton.

Cathy Engstrom, Associate Professor of Higher Education and the School of Education’s Faculty Director of Graduate Studies, and Dawn Johnson, Associate Professor of Higher Education, are studying current and former USLAMP summer students’ involvement in their research experiences. The investigators are examining the graduate school aspirations, pathways, and outcomes of USLAMP underrepresented minority students in order to gain insights regarding their decisions to pursue, delay, or opt out of graduate study in STEM fields.

The research project’s goal is to link effective practices within ULSAMP to facilitate students’ graduate study interests and aspirations. The researchers also hope to define the kinds of activities (such as providing undergraduate research opportunities, conducting GRE preparation, and hearing graduate students speak about their research experiences) that strengthen students’ aspirations to pursue graduate study in STEM fields.

Hamilton notes that several community and industry partners will be collaborating with the alliance over the next five years to provide real-world research opportunities. They include Micron Technology, National Grid, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.