Students participating in a Massenberg Institute workshop
University News

Opening the Doors to STEM: UMass Amherst’s Massenberg Summer Institute Prepares for Fourth Season

Open to rising 10th grade students, Massenberg is now accepting nominations for this summer’s cohort

There is a well-documented gap in STEM education, which does not reflect the full diversity of American society. To help broaden participation in STEM, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has launched the Massenberg Summer Institute, which is geared toward low-income, underrepresented students of color that might not otherwise have exposure to opportunities in STEM fields, or understand STEM’s importance and relevancy in their high school education. Students are nominated by their guidance counselor or teacher, and the program is now accepting nominations. Accepted students are not charged for the program.

The program includes two-weeks’ residence at UMass Amherst’s Commonwealth Honors College and enrolls approximately 20 students per summer. Students immerse themselves in intensive classroom and lab experiences, meet in small groups with professors, visit industry leaders in Boston and receive small-group mentoring from faculty, career-services experts and college admissions staff, as well as current student leaders at UMass.

“You see the wheels turning—you see kids who may have been quiet and shy blossoming” says Erika Dawson-Head, the executive director of diversity and inclusive community development at UMass Amherst’s Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences, as well as director of the Massenberg Institute. “Massenberg is a jewel: it gives a gift to all of the students involved, because they get to find out what it’s like to be a college student.”

And it’s not just the students who find their way into the world of college-level STEM studies. “Parents are invited to campus,” says Dawson-Head, especially for the final presentation, which sometimes takes the form of a product-unveiling, in which teams of students unveil the research they’ve spent the last two weeks engaged in. “This way, parents can support their student in STEM – it’s a way to keep the learning going,” Dawson-Head says.

Erika Dawson-Head

Massenberg is a jewel: it gives a gift to all of the students involved, because they get to find out what it’s like to be a college student.

Erika Dawson-Head, director of the Massenberg Institute and executive director of diversity & inclusive community development, Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences

The institute is open to students from Morristown High School in Morristown, New Jersey and McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, as well as high school students in Springfield and Holyoke, Massachusetts, all of whom are nominated by their school’s guidance counselors or teachers.

The Massenberg Summer Institute is a collaboration between the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Education. The program is funded by an endowment from UMass Amherst alumnus Michael Weir ‘76 and Mirian Graddick-Weir and is named in honor of Graddick-Weir's father, Samuel Massenberg Sr., a former U.S. Air Force pilot, professor of aerospace studies, director of education at NASA’s Langley Research Center and life-long champion of STEM education.

To nominate a student, or learn more about the Massenberg Summer Institute, visit