Improving Diversity in STEM Fields Focus of UT-Hosted Conference

One of the leading bodies in the push to diversify classes in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—fields will be on display in Knoxville as the Tennessee chapter of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (TLSAMP) comes to town Thursday and Friday, February 25 and 26.

The National Science Foundation helps support the state-level organizations such as TLSAMP in an effort to increase the number of minority undergraduates and graduate students.

“Having a more diverse, more prepared student population helps far beyond just the students directly impacted,” said Masood Parang, associate dean of UT’s College of Engineering and the principal investigator for the university’s TLSAMP efforts. “By increasing the number of people from varying backgrounds you, by default, also increase viewpoints, ideas and solutions.

“Diversity is important for many reasons.”

Established on a national scale by an act of Congress in 1991 to improve the numbers and quality of minority students in STEM fields, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation now accounts for 220,000 students annually across forty-one groups, a commitment of $45 million.

The Tennessee chapter includes UT, Fisk University, LeMoyne-Owen College, the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, and Vanderbilt University, Nashville State Community College, and Southwest Community College in Memphis.

The alliance set the goal of doubling participation from underrepresented students—African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander—within five years.

To do so, the group has identified three key areas for improvements:

  • Better recruitment of underrepresented students
  • Refining the learning environment for such students across all schools
  • Raising the number of undergraduates qualified for advanced degrees

“There are many ways that TLSAMP strives to help students,” said Travis Griffin, UT College of Engineering diversity programs director. “It’s not just raising the sheer number of students, but improving the experience, the opportunity of students.”

In addition to education-related discussions and business while in Knoxville, students from the schools will compete in poster competitions and presentations, with the distinguished Howard Adams delivering the keynote address.

Adams served as head of a task force on women, minorities, and the disabled at the request of President Ronald Reagan and was named one of the first recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Mentoring by President Bill Clinton.

He has also received the Centennial Medallion from the American Society of Engineering Education and a Golden Torch Award Lifetime Achievement in Academia from The National Society of Black Engineers, and was named a 20th Century Outstanding Educator by Black Issues in Higher Education.

More on the event can be found by clicking here

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)