Sloan Foundation partners with Penn State to support under-represented groups

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is partnering with Penn State and two other universities to create University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEMs) designed to support doctoral students from under-represented minority groups studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

As part of the effort announced this week, the University will receive a three-year, $850,000 grant. Nearly all of the funds will go directly to the students for supplemental stipend support and professional development.

The partnership has been designed to identify universities with a proven exemplary track record of successfully mentoring and advancing underrepresented minority doctoral students in STEM disciplines and empowering those universities to expand, strengthen and institutionalize efforts aimed at recruitment, mentoring, educational support and professional development of underrepresented groups.

Penn State, along with Cornell University and Georgia Institute of Technology, was chosen for its historical success in recruiting and mentoring doctoral students from under-represented groups. Selection was based on the quality of the departments and academic programs constituting the UCEM; the quality, breadth and creativity of their planned future activities; and the strength of their institutional commitment to furthering education for underrepresented groups in STEM fields.

Over the past 13 years, the ongoing Sloan program at Penn State has provided the equivalent of a year's funding to more than 100 minority doctoral candidates across the University's six academic STEM colleges. Of these, 58 have completed a doctorate thus far and 20 have become faculty. The forthcoming Sloan program will build on that legacy.

"Cornell, Georgia Tech and Penn State have demonstrated a truly exceptional commitment to the education of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields," said Elizabeth Boylan, program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in a press release. "On every level, from the lab where the experienced mentor guides the student, to the department that provides academic and social support, to senior administrative leaders who champion the value of diversity, these institutions are doing whatever it takes to ensure that minority students have the resources and environment they need to succeed."

Fred S. Cannon, who is the principal investigator for the Sloan program at Penn State, said, "These Sloan Scholars have been hard-working, fun-loving experts in their fields who have been making an exponential impact on our nation. We're very honored to be selected for this continued collaboration with Sloan."

Suzanne Adair, the administrative principal investigator for the Sloan program at Penn State, said, "Every year, our Sloan Scholars continue to demonstrate their advanced level of knowledge and skill within their particular disciplines, as well as their incredible commitment to providing support to one another as they move through their academic programs. The benefits of this program are beyond measure as we continue to meet the challenge of broadening participating within the STEM disciplines."

As part of the work, Penn State's UCEM will expand on the success of its Bunton-Waller Graduate Awards Program, which is part of the University's comprehensive educational opportunity program. The UCEM grant will offer stipend support to 20 Sloan scholars, as well as enrichment opportunities for an additional 20 under-represented doctoral scholars over the next three years.

The Penn State UCEM will include a dozen faculty mentors and six college multicultural directors.

In addition, the University has plans for several other initiatives, including an alumni visitation program to provide students with professional development and networking opportunities and a "buddy" system that will link doctoral, master's and undergraduate students in a supportive pipeline that will prepare students for future advanced study.

Each center will receive administrative support through the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. Students supported through the centers' programs will also participate in the Southern Regional Education Board's Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, the largest professional development conference for minority scholars.

Contacts: 

Fred Cannon

Work Phone: 
814-863-8754

Fred Cannon, professor of civil and environmental engineering

Last Updated August 14, 2013