UIW Partners in Major $2.5 Million Grant to Aid Underrepresented STEM Students

October 7, 2022

STEM students in the lab

The University of the Incarnate Word, along with St. Mary’s University, Trinity University and Our Lady of the Lake University, have been awarded an almost $2.5 million grant by the National Science Foundation. The goal of the grant-funded project from the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program is to increase the number of historically underrepresented students and those from lower-income backgrounds to obtain bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“This program represents the first STEM alliance between the four predominantly undergraduate institutions in San Antonio. We have worked as a team for the past four years, initially garnering support for a pre-alliance award in 2020 that offered funding for a yearlong planning stage,” said Veronica G. Martinez Acosta, Ph.D., University of the Incarnate Word professor of Biology. “This Pre-Alliance award helped us identify challenges that each of us held in common and those that are unique to our institutions. We firmly believe there is power in working as a team of predominantly undergraduate institutions to help address the need for increased retention of diverse individuals in STEM.”

The grant will help the institutions address those challenges by including a joint orientation for each cohort of students and their families from all four institutions, as well as alliance-wide workshops and programming. St. Mary’s University will administer the project to implement the grant of $2,478,170 over the next five years. About 400 STEM majors will benefit from the program over that time.

“We want to help underrepresented, minority students stay in college, successfully graduate and transition into graduate school or careers in STEM fields,” said Melissa Karlin, Ph.D., St. Mary’s director of the Office of Student Research and Inquiry. “We see many students drop from these majors by their second year, and we worked to identify the main factors during a pre-planning grant period. Based on those results, this new program will include intentional mentoring and relationship building between STEM students, peer coaches and faculty mentors across the Alliance. That bond among the students and sense of belonging will hopefully increase and help faculty and mentors to more easily identify issues or struggles as they arise.”