Natural Sciences Department

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Grant to help UW-Superior graduate more minority students in science

Posted on Oct 22, 2012

A newly received grant will help the University of Wisconsin-Superior launch a program to prepare more minority students for careers in science.

The $15,121 grant from the Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation funds UW-Superior's new Advancing Minorities in Science Scholars Project or AMIS. Through the AMIS Project, UW-Superior and its partners will provide intensive assistance to minority students, particularly Native Americans, who are pursuing undergraduate degrees in the natural sciences.

"We're really excited about the AMIS Project because it will allow our students to have authentic research experiences with the natural science faculty," said Dr. Kristin Riker-Coleman.

The AMIS Project is a priority of UW-Superior Provost Faith Hensrud. The university's Department of Natural Sciences and Office of Multicultural Affairs will work closely to assist the students pursuing their degree in fields such as environmental science, biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and Earth sciences.

The AMIS Project will be open to all minority students, and is particularly aimed at Native American students. Students recruited for the program will include graduates of tribal colleges around the region.

"Native American students are our largest group of minority students. We are trying to create a connection with tribal colleges and we're using opportunities already before us to make this program a success," said Chip Beal, diversity coordinator at UW-Superior.

The AMIS Project will start with five students. It seeks to engage them by emphasizing undergraduate research and support them through a close working relationship between the students and the faculty scientists who have volunteered to serve as mentors.

Students chosen for the project will work in small groups to perform hand-on research with faculty scientists. They will have opportunities for field trips and career exploration that will broaden their understanding of how scientists work and introduce them to professional role models.

"The field trips we will be taking will introduce our students to everyday people who are scientists. We don't all wear lab coats for our daily work; many of us have families and interests outside of science. Yet we're interested in science and find great satisfaction in earning our living applying science," Riker-Coleman said.

Assisting with the project is the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, directed by Dr. Ralph Garono, which is contributing $8,000 to assist two of the students. The Lake Superior NERR's participation will offer students the opportunity to learn while working to preserve critical wetlands.

The AMIS Project is an effort to encourage more minority students to enter the so-called STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"The STEM fields traditionally have few students of color, not only at UW-Superior but at universities throughout the country," Beal said. "These steps to increase our number of STEM graduates of color shows our commitment to changing this situation at UW-Superior. This is a pilot program that gives our students and our university an opportunity to take progressive steps toward closing the gap."

UW-Superior officials are hopeful that the AMIS Project will lead to a larger program to graduate more students of color in the STEM fields.

"Everyone involved is committed to continuing this," Beal said. "Using this as a pilot program offers us opportunities to explore how to make it permanent."

News Contact: Al Miller | 715-394-8260 | amiller{atuws}
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