The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has announced a partnership with Cornell University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Pennsylvania State University to fund and host University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring for minority graduate students.
Each school will receive a grant of approximately $1 million over three years to expand, strengthen, and institutionalize efforts aimed at recruiting, mentoring, and providing educational support and professional development to underrepresented minority graduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. Initiated through the foundation's Minority Ph.D. program, the UCEMs are designed to assist universities with a proven track record in educating underrepresented groups in STEM fields and serve as models for other educational institutions. In addition, each center will continue to receive administrative support through the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering.
"Cornell, Georgia Tech, and Penn State have demonstrated a truly exceptional commitment to the education of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields," said Elizabeth S. Boylan, Minority Ph.D. program director at the Sloan Foundation. "On every level, from the lab where the experienced mentor guides the student, to the department that provides academic and social support, to senior administrative leaders who champion the value of diversity, these institutions are doing whatever it takes to ensure that minority students have the resources and the environment they need to succeed."
The creation of UCEMs represents a shift in the program's strategy following a year-long evaluation conducted in 2012. Launched in 1995, the program had focused on providing support at the individual mentor or department level, funding scholarships for students in more than sixty graduate programs nationwide. "After consulting with students, professors, educators, administrators, and program participants all across the country, we determined that we could leverage our funds if we concentrated our resources for student scholarship support on fewer institutions," Boylan said. "The most effective programs for educating students marshal resources from all levels of university faculty and administration and provide support at every step of a student's career. That's exactly what the University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring are expected to do."