UNLV to lead new NSF Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in STEM

CenterPoint | March 2018 | Lawrence Letourneau, Director for Research & Compliance


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Two years of intense grant-proposal development work by UNLV's Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach (CAEO) has ushered in the establishment of a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) that partners UNLV with three other institutions of higher education--College of Southern Nevada (CSN), Northern Arizona University (NAU), and Coconino Community College (CCC)--in the lower Colorado River basin. The Alliance--funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 2017 to 2022 and called Southern Nevada Northern Arizona LSAMP (SNNA-LSAMP)--is one of only 51 LSAMP projects across the United States. Led by UNLV, SNNA-LSAMP's overall goal is to increase by 50% within five years the number of STEM baccalaureate recipients from underrepresented minority groups (specifically, African American​, Hispanic American​, American Indian​, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian​, and Native Pacific Islander) backgrounds produced ​collectively ​by UNLV and NAU.

Headed by Dr. Diane Chase (UNLV's executive vice president and provost and the LSAMP grant's Principal Investigator) and Keith Rogers (CAEO's deputy executive director and the grant's co-PI), SNNA-LSAMP is housed within and managed by CAEO.  The process for selecting students to become SNNA-LSAMP participants varies from one Alliance campus to the next, but the general characteristics of participants are similar. Specifically, each fall semester beginning in 2017 and continuing through 2021, on each of the four Alliance campuses, a cohort of 80 freshmen from underrepresented minority backgrounds will be selected to become SNNA-LSAMP participants; these students will be individuals who need guidance and assistance in order to be successful in STEM undergraduate degree programs. ​ Additionally, at both UNLV and NAU, one cohort of 100 juniors was recruited in the fall semester of 2017 to become SNNA-LSAMP participants and serve as near-peer mentors to the younger cohorts on all four Alliance campuses in 2017-18 and 2018-19. This cohort of juniors will be high-achieving STEM students. Moreover, all participants will be served by SNNA-LSAMP for the entire time that they are enrolled as undergraduates on an Alliance campus.​ As a result, the total number of SNNA-LSAMP participants will climb from 520 (i.e., 180 students at UNLV, 80 at CSN, 180 at NAU, and 80 at CCC) in 2017-18 to more than 900 by 2021-22.

SNNA-LSAMP includes undergraduate research as one of its activities for a limited number of UNLV and NAU upperclassmen,​ but undergraduate research is not the ​grant's ​exclusive or even primary focus. Instead, UNLV and its three IHE partners provide a set of services--the most expansive of which are near-peer mentoring, where graduate-level STEM students mentor ​STEM ​upperclassmen, who in turn mentor ​STEM ​underclassmen. One of SNNA-LSAMP's overall aims in providing both undergraduate research and near-peer mentoring is to enhance participants' STEM disciplinary socialization. This process during which participants interact with increased frequency with others, who have similar intellectual interests, and through which participants become more conversant in the language of their academic fields and start viewing themselves not simply as STEM students but as members of a community of STEM practitioners. More information about SNNA-LSAMP activities and services at UNLV can be found at caeo.unlv.edu/lsamp.

SNNA-LSAMP is a true collaboration among institutions that allows each partner to leverage some strengths of the others. For example, all the graduate students who will be hired as mentors at UNLV and NAU will receive training from UNLV, and all the upperclassmen participants who will act as near-peer mentors at UNLV and NAU will receive training from NAU. Additionally, the upperclassmen participants will serve as mentors not just to underclassmen at their own institutions, but also to those at the corresponding SNNA-LSAMP community college.  For example, the UNLV juniors selected to become SNNA-LSAMP participants in the fall 2017 semester will serve as near-peer mentors not just to UNLV freshmen but also to CSN freshmen. To spearhead this type of cross-institution and cross-state collaboration is a significant accomplishment for UNLV, as it shows that, in just 60 years, the institution has become one of the American Southwest's premier universities.

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