Millennium Scholars Program growing into third year

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Millennium Scholars Program is growing, both in size and in the eyes of the national STEM community. The program’s third class, or cohort, is finishing up its first semester at University Park, and already the students' degree options have grown to encompass the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, College of Agricultural Sciences, and College of Information Sciences and Technology. Additionally, members of the first and second cohorts, now sophomores and juniors, have just returned from presenting their research at the nationally recognized Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).

“We’ve been working on adding these colleges to the program for a while now,” said Starlette Sharp, director of the Millennium Scholars Program. “Now, we can include an even broader group of students and faculty in areas that we weren’t able to before. This is just a move toward more inclusiveness. When we say STEM, we mean it.”

She gave the example of EMS students who have served as research mentors to Millennium Scholars but haven’t seen any student representation in the program from their college yet. This is because up until recently, the only colleges that Millennium Scholars could enroll in were the College of Engineering and Eberly College of Science.

“The fact is that the majors represented in the other colleges are STEM disciplines, and as long as students are drawn to them, it is important to accommodate that,” Sharp said.

Dean Andrew Sears of the College of Information Sciences and Technology said that he was excited to have his college join the Millennium Scholars. Previously, Sears worked with the Meyerhoff scholars — the Millennium Scholars Program’s inspiration — at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“I can say firsthand that this experience can be incredibly rewarding for faculty and transformational for the students," Sears said. "My experience with the Meyerhoff program made the decision to partner with the Millennium Scholars very easy, since there is no doubt our participation will help the college attract even more outstanding students while we work to diversify our disciplines.”

Proof of the scholar’s drive is evident in their recent trip to the ABRCMS conference in Seattle. Of 10 Penn State students to attend, seven were Millennium Scholars, and all of the scholars were awarded travel grants. Research ranged from physiology of kidneys to engineering, Sharp said. Victor Acero, an engineering student, won an additional award for his outstanding poster presentation, and came home with a $250 prize.

“It’s a fantastic way to get students involved, to help them put their research out there and look at graduate school,” Sharp said. “This type of scientific and professional exposure is invaluable for future graduate students. It gives the students a glimpse at the next steps in their career path.”

Last Updated December 14, 2015