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Release: Oct. 22, 2002

UI receives $4.3 million in NSF minority student grants

The University of Iowa has received a total of $4.3 million in National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to support two projects involving the three Iowa Regents universities -- the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. The projects would significantly increase the number of underrepresented U.S. minority students awarded doctorates in mathematical, physical and life sciences and engineering.

The first project, supported by a $1.8 million grant from the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences, is called the "Alliance for the Production of African-American Ph.D.s in the Mathematical Sciences" (APAAPMS). Its goal is to provide a smooth transition to Ph.D. granting institutions such as UI and ISU for undergraduate math majors from four historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) -- Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Jackson State University and Benedict College. The program is a collaborative effort between the UI and ISU departments of mathematics, computer science, statistics and measurement and statistics and the four HBCU math departments

The second project, supported by a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program, is called the "Iowa Regents University Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate" (Iowa AGEP). The Iowa AGEP program will recruit and develop African-American, Latino/a and Native American students in the mathematical, physical and life sciences and engineering at all three Iowa Regents universities.

Jon Whitmore, UI provost and Iowa AGEP principal investigator, and Philip Kutzko, UI professor of mathematics and Iowa AGEP director, say that the two NSF grants recognize the potential of the Iowa Regents Universities for preparing minority students for careers in higher education.

"These significant grants will aid the University of Iowa in its continuing quest for academic excellence through diversity in our teaching and research programs," Whitmore says. "The need for greater diversity in the math, science, and engineering fields is real. Iowa is now better poised to help in this national effort."

Kutzko says, "It is important to understand what this says about the people of the State of Iowa, our civic values and our historic commitment to fairness and inclusivity. It is quite remarkable how many people both at our universities and throughout the state have supported us in this effort."

The APAAPMS program will select eight undergraduate scholars at each HBCU and assign each student an HBCU mentor and an Iowa Regents mentor to develop individualized courses of study and research projects prior to offering admission to a doctoral program at an Iowa Regents university upon graduation. APAAPMS will also select 24 students for an annual eight-week UI or ISU summer institute, offering information about research areas, career paths and university life and opportunities to conduct research and meet students, professors and minority scholars.

The goal of the Iowa AGEP program is to recruit, retain and graduate a substantial number of minority graduate students as well as to build and maintain an environment at all three universities that guarantees real and permanent access to university programs. Program elements include building partnerships with minority institutions, hosting summer research and workshop programs, and providing graduate teaching fellowships. UI and ISU will each provide support for five teaching fellows annually, with the five-year teaching fellowships to be made permanent at the end of the grant period. UNI will provide support for two, two-year teaching fellows. The Iowa AGEP program will provide career counseling and placement assistance as fellows complete their doctorates.

The NSF has awarded some 27 AGEP grants nationwide to increase the number of minority students receiving doctorates in the mathematical, physical and life sciences and engineering and to encourage them to become professors, role models and mentors.

The Iowa AGEP and APAAPMS projects provide an opportunity to greatly expand ongoing efforts by several Iowa Regents university departments and units to make their programs more accessible. Notable among these is the unusual success of the UI math department in achieving one of the nation's most diverse and inclusive graduate student communities, consisting of about 20 percent underrepresented U.S. minority students. Over the past decade, the UI has won four U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) grants totaling about $2 million to assist in training minority doctoral candidates in mathematics. The department has also attracted support from the Sloan Foundation for dissertation year studies by minority students and has built partnerships with the math departments of several HBCUs, including Florida A&M, and several universities in Puerto Rico. In 1999 the UI department of mathematics was one of two winners of the university's inaugural Catalyst Award, presented by the UI Office of Affirmative Action to individuals or organizations for work in diversity. In 2001, the Catalyst Award was presented to Mathematics Professor Eugene Madison, chair of the Departmental Committee for Minority Student Recruitment and Development. Also, in April 2000, Cornell President and former UI President Hunter R. Rawlings recognized the UI program and UI Mathematics Professor Herbert Hethcote for contributing to the training of minorities in the mathematical sciences.