The STEM Diversity Institute at UMass Amherst was the host institution for an all-day symposium held on Friday, May 30th for members of the Northeastern Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate. For the past 15 years, UMass Amherst has lead the Alliance that also includes MIT, Boston University, Rutgers, Penn State and the Universities of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These institutions partner with minority-serving institution members of NEAGEP: Bennett College, Lincoln University, Medgar Evers College, and the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez.
NEAGEP Alliance members met to discuss various strategies for continuing its mission to increase the number of underrepresented students undertaking graduate study in a STEM field. Since 1999, the NEAGEP has attracted over $10 million in NSF funding. In addition, UMass Amherst leveraged the successes of NEAGEP to obtain an additional $5 million in NIH and NSF grants targeted to diversifying the STEM workforce. These grants are housed in the STEM Diversity Institute. According to Sandra Petersen, executive director of the STEM Diversity Institute and professor of Veterinary and Animal Science, during the past 15 years the NEAGEP “built a trusting and collaborative relationship between a group of institutions who share a common mission, share best practices, and who work together to find the appropriate academic programs for students from underrepresented groups.”
Successful recruitment and retention efforts more than doubled enrollment of underrepresented graduate students across Alliance institutions and the number of underrepresented students completing their doctorate rose by 56% compared to 19% nationally. In fact, over the past five years, NEAGEP institutions graduated 328 underrepresented minority STEM PhD students. Petersen says, “We now plan to build on our successes and continue our alliance activities through different funding models. As a group, we are committed to meeting the national need of including representatives of our entire population in the STEM workforce.”