UAH pair attends Alaska conference on minority STEM education

Desalyn Johnson and Rosemary Robinson

Desalyn Johnson, left, and Rosemary Robinson, right, with Alaskan sixth grader and ANSEP student Joy Shein at the conference.

Courtesy Rosemary Robinson

Two members of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) campus community recently joined an Alabama delegation that traveled to Alaska to learn more about successfully introducing students who are members of racial minorities to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Rosemary Robinson, UAH diversity initiatives coordinator in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and UAH STEM student Desalyn Johnson attended the NSF/ANSEP Broadening Participation in Engineering Dissemination Conference on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA).

Hosted by the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), it brought 54 Anchorage School District students together with 90 conference attendees from around the country.

The pair from UAH joined the Alabama Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (ALSAMP) delegation, which sent 10 people from the state to Alaska.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the LSAMP is a fellowship program that seeks to help diversify the STEM workforce by focusing on recruitment, retention and enrichment of the student to attempt to reform education practices.

"It is imperative that we, as educators, continue to seek ways to increase academic readiness for all students," says Robinson. "If Alabama is going to have a productive and diverse workforce, we must implement programs like the ANSEP model to prepare our students."

"It was important for the Alabama delegation to attend, as it represents some of the best practices in STEM mentoring in the United States," says Dr. Emanuel Waddell, associate dean of the UAH College of Science and associate professor of chemistry. "The ALSAMP model incorporates K-12, secondary education and industry in workforce development and preparing the next generation of leadership in STEM."

Funded by the NSF and ALSAMP, the conference stressed culture, mentorship, working in groups and starting early when introducing minority students to STEM in order to increase the number of minorities in the STEM field and provide the needed tools to succeed in their respective fields.

One of ALSAMP’s goals is to effect change in the academic readiness of middle school and high school students and to prepare students for college and STEM careers, Robinson says.

"The statistical data of the ANSEP program shows that mentorship is a vital and key component of academic success," she says. "This mentorship program provides guidance from peers, faculty and professionals. It allows students to learn in a collaborative environment, which provides students the opportunity to learn from their peers, lead discussion groups and establish a community."

The program also emphasizes the importance of internship and research. ANSEP participants are required to complete an internship each summer, exposing them to the workplace environment, mentorship and financial resources.

"I learned the importance of community and assisting others in achieving their goals," says Johnson, the UAH STEM student. "It also solidified my belief that, with hard work and opportunity, anything is possible."

Robinson says she learned that success in diversifying the workforce means changing the culture of students early in their educational experience.

"It inspired me to continue assisting minorities in achieving their goals and dreams," she says. "It reminded me why I am passionate about the work I do."

"I am excited about the model of engagement that Rosemary and Desalyn were exposed to," says Dr. Waddell. "There is potential for mimicking some of the ANSEP programming at UAH and in the Alabama LSAMP."


Rosemary Robinson

Jim Steele


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