Dr. Melody Russell, Associate Professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Teaching, and co-PIs Dr. Jared A. Russell (School of Kinesiology), Dr. Martha Escobar (Department of Psychology), Dr. Oladiran Fasina, (Biosystems Engineering), and Dr. Curtis Shannon (Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry) have recently been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities entering and completing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduate programs. The project, entitled “Collaborative Research: The Tuskegee Alliance to Develop, Implement and Study a Virtual Graduate Education Model for Underrepresented Minorities in STEM,” is a multi-institutional project led by Tuskegee University in collaboration with Alabama State University and Auburn University. The total grant award across the three institutions is $2,593,384; Auburn’s portion of the award is $821,702.
The award comes from the NSF’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program. The purpose of the grant is to develop, implement, and study unique and innovative models that identify, eliminate or mitigate factors that impact persistence in STEM graduate programs for underrepresented minorities. Research on broadening participation and promoting equity and social justice in STEM has long been Russell’s primary area of research, as well as her passion.
“NSF’s investment in the Tuskegee Alliance to Forge Pathways to STEM Academic Careers (T-PAC) project reflects NSF’s commitment to broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said NSF Program Director Mark Leddy, who leads the NSF’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program.“This AGEP Transformation project draws on the expertise of three Alabama universities with a strong record of federally funded grants to advance a new STEM education model for underrepresented minorities,” Dr. Leddy added. “It is exciting that T-PAC will include on-line professional development components, which will contribute to the model development and implementation, and which will lead toward increasing the diversity of academe and the broader STEM workforce.”
The Alliance ultimately seeks to enhance the graduate experience, promote retention for students from underrepresented groups, and increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the STEM professoriate.
“This is important research, and when the NSF, a highly prestigious funding agency, commits to increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities in STEM graduate education and the STEM professoriate, I am all the more inspired and confident that our research will be transformative.”