Trickling Up to Excellence

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 18, 2017) — Figuring out ways to increase the number of students from underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors was the topic of a forum last week at the Standish Room in the Science Library.

The speaker was Michael Summers, the Robert Meyerhoff Chair for Excellence in Research and Mentoring and a professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Summers, a Howard Hughes investigator and member of the National Academy of Sciences, shared information and strategies that UMBC used to significantly improve recruitment and retention of minority students in the STEM fields.

Summers spoke about UMBC’s Meyerhoff Scholars program, a highly selective, nomination-based program for undergraduate students who want to pursue doctoral degrees and who are interested in increasing diversity in the STEM fields. Recognized by the National Science Foundation as a national model, the Meyerhoff program brings together a tightly-knit group of high-achieving students in a supportive and structured environment, from a pre-college summer “bridge” program, to regular meetings with advisors during their academic careers.

“While the program supports only a small number of students – about 70 this year – there’s a huge ‘trickle-up’ effect,” Summers said. “By concentrating resources on these students who have high visibility in the classroom and tutorial centers, it pulls up all students.”

Summers was introduced by Distinguished Professor Marlene Belfort of Biological Sciences, who called Summers “my role model.”

“UAlbany is active on a number of fronts to enhance inclusive excellence on campus and I feel that Dr Summers’ inspiring visit will provide additional impetus as we move forward,” said Belfort. “He’s absolutely remarkable in his dedication and commitment.”

Interim President James R. Stellar and Interim Provost Darrell P. Wheeler also addressed the group, which included deans, professors, members of the student engagement staff and a contingent from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Photos by Mark Schmidt

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