University President Mary Sue Coleman has kept the University’s focus on a buzzword here on campus — diversity. Recently, Coleman was in Lansing to celebrate the growth of the Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation initiative, which aims to increase the number of minority students who graduate with bachelor’s degrees in math, science, technology and engineering. Increasing minority representation in universities and emphasizing math and science education are important to the future of the state. University leaders should continue to develop and enlarge the MI-LSAMP while making tangible efforts toward achieving its objectives.

Officials from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State and Western Michigan founded the MI-LSAMP in 2005. The program’s goal was to double the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by minority students in math and science-related fields. According to a Feb. 3 Daily article, this commitment was reiterated, and the program expanded to include nine Michigan community colleges, including Washtenaw Community College. The current yearly rate of increase of minority students earning bachelor’s degrees among the four founding universities is 28 percent, but this number — though better than many other schools over the same time frame — will have to improve to meet MI-LSAMP’s aims, according to Coleman.

It’s encouraging that Coleman and leaders of other universities are setting high standards for students. The University is upholding its pledge to diversity, by fostering a rich intellectual environment for students and providing exposure to colleagues of starkly contrasting backgrounds and experiences. But recognizing the presence of underrepresented minorities and facilitating their academic success goes beyond the classroom and into the workplace by preparing students to succeed and contribute to an ailing Michigan economy. The MI-LSAMP demonstrates that the University’s dedication to diversity doesn’t end when students enroll, but continues through graduation.

Additionally, math, science, technology and engineering are important sectors to Michigan’s — not to mention the United States’ — progress. President Barack Obama made these subjects a priority in his State of the Union address, calling for “100,000 new teachers” in these fields and emphasizing that they are a priority for America to be a global competitor. In Michigan, graduates in science and technology could help provide the state with the boost that it needs to make the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a green technology hub that will fuel the future. Producing students who are employable in the 21st century is one of the University’s main responsibilities and a promise it’s upholding through programs like MI-LSAMP.

The University is doing its part by giving students the tools to do well through programs like MI-LSAMP. Students should reciprocate by making use of the resources provided and pursuing employment in the state of Michigan. Whether through greater diversity in the workforce or economic improvement, increased underrepresented minority graduation rates in the fields of math and science is beneficial for all Americans.

MI-LSAMP’s sponsors should be applauded for their efforts — the goal of doubling minority graduation rates in math, science, technology and engineering by 2015 seems attainable because of them. These efforts should be sustained as the University continues its efforts to promote diversity on and off campus.

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