LANSING — Higher education leaders from across Michigan came together here yesterday to reaffirm their commitment to increase the number of minority students who earn bachelor’s degrees in math, science, technology and engineering.
Officials from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University congregated at Lansing Community College to celebrate the expansion of the initiative titled the Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.
The four schools originally formed MI-LSAMP in 2005 with funding from the colleges and the National Science Foundation. Yesterday’s event marked the extension of the program to nine community colleges in Michigan.
The new schools to join the commitment — which aims to double the number of minority students who receive bachelor’s degrees in math, science, technology and engineering, — consist of Grand Rapids Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kellogg Community College, Lake Michigan College, Lansing Community College, Macomb Community College, Muskegon Community College, Washtenaw Community College and Wayne County Community College District.
Speaking at the event yesterday, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman reiterated the mission of MI-LSAMP, of which she is the principal investigator.
“We set an ambitious goal for ourselves,” Coleman said, “that by 2015 we would double the number of minority students earning bachelor’s degrees in the fields where we most need graduates — math, science, technology and engineering.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily following the event, Coleman said the University and partner schools need to work even harder to meet the ambitious goal.
“What we’ve seen already is a 28-percent increase year after year in the graduation of these four institutions,” Coleman said. “That’s terrific, but we’re going to have to step it up to get to what our goal is.”
However, Coleman said the 28-percent increase is still better than what many other schools have seen in the same time period.
“I think if you compare us nationally with what we’ve done, we’ve done well,” she said. “But we have aspirations, and I think this new collaboration will really help us reach that goal.”
Lester Monts, the University’s vice provost for academic affairs and senior counselor to the president for the arts, diversity and undergraduate affairs, also spoke at the event and highlighted the impact of MI-LSAMP.
“Nine community college partners represent a direct link between the four major public research universities and the academic talent within these community colleges,” Monts said. “What this new partnership can provide are valuable relationships for community college students and professors with engineering faculty, students and staff at the universities.”
Students involved in the program also attended the event yesterday to showcase projects they’re working on.
Rodney Singleton, a graduate student at Michigan State University, spoke at the event and said MI-LSAMP was having a profound impact on his life.
“I can stand here and truly say LSAMP has changed my life,” Singleton said.
Singleton began his involvement with the MI-LSAMP program after his freshman year. He joked that he initially joined the program not only because he was interested in math, but because he wanted to gain extra brownie points with his mother.
Jokes aside, Singleton said he is now working on research in vehicle infrastructure integration, which focuses on vehicle communication with roads and other vehicles.
“I know this might seem a little science fiction or something you might see in a movie, but these are things that we are working on right now,” he said.
Singleton’s research is one of many projects occurring as part of MI-LSAMP, with other efforts focusing on the development of autonomous robots and solar energy in automobiles.