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ODU Joins VA-NC Alliance to Diversify Science and Technology Workforce

By Tom Robinson

Old Dominion University's partnership aimed at increasing minority students and workers in STEM-H disciplines has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The University is one of 12 institutions in the NSF's Virginia-North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. The goal of the alliance is to diversify enrollment and graduating classes in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health care (STEM-H).

Among research universities in Virginia, Old Dominion already produces the second-highest percentage of STEM-H graduates and the highest percentage of African- American doctoral students.

"The alliance gets minority students into the pipeline for advanced graduate work in STEM," says Brian Payne, vice provost for academic affairs at Old Dominion. "It takes undergraduates and makes it much easier for them to move from one institution in the alliance to another for graduate school."

In addition to Old Dominion, member institutions in Virginia are the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason, Thomas Nelson and Piedmont Virginia Community Colleges and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

North Carolina members are Bennett College, Elizabeth City State University, Johnson C. Smith University and Saint Augustine's University.

Collectively since 2007, alliance schools have reported a 174 percent increase in the number of STEM degrees earned by minority students. In the same time, STEM enrollment among minority students has increased by 90 percent. The NSF previously provided $14.5 million to the alliance.

The $1,075,000 grant will support a Bridge to the Doctorate program to identify qualified STEM undergraduates and support their graduate work. It will also finance a three-week residential transition program. U.Va. will host the first residential program. ODU, one of the few partners with STEM Ph.D. programs, is in line as a future residential site.

Old Dominion's Ph.D options and partnerships enable the University to offer "multiple pathways for our students," Payne said. "We've got very strong Ph.D. programs in STEM. And we're able to work with some of the other institutions that don't have them to get their students ready to come here. So I see ODU as a bridge rather than a one-way street."

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