Alma Announces STEM Commitment at White House Summit

“We want to get more students excited about science through laboratory and field experiences that are tied to local issues and have personal meaning.” — Jeff Abernathy

Alma College will recruit more low-income and underrepresented students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — a commitment announced as part of today’s White House College Opportunity Day of Action hosted by President Barack Obama.

The target areas for Alma College’s commitment will be Detroit and mid-Michigan’s Gratiot County. The initiative builds upon a partnership with Detroit’s Michigan Future Schools established as a result of last January’s College Opportunity Day initiative.

Alma College President Jeff Abernathy joined President Obama and hundreds of college presidents and higher education leaders at today’s White House summit to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

“We want to get more students excited about science through laboratory and field experiences that are tied to local issues and have personal meaning,” says Abernathy. “We are especially pleased to enhance educational opportunities for students in Detroit and to build on our partnership with Michigan Future Schools.”

Alma College recently received a $5 million grant from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation for improving STEM education in Michigan. A component of the initiative, titled “e-STEM: Enhancing STEM Education and Practice,“ includes the sponsorship of summer research experiences for K-12 teachers. These experiences will include side-by-side research with Alma College faculty as well as time to design projects for K-12 schools.

These projects will be field-tested in summer camps that expose K-12 students to the research that takes place in the labs and field sites of Alma College. Alma plans to involve 25 elementary, 75 middle and high school students, 15 K-12 teachers, and 10 college students per summer.

“We believe that providing opportunities to explore science activities with college students and faculty will excite K-12 students about pursuing STEM careers,” says Abernathy.

Alma’s historic strength in STEM disciplines is measured by its four-year graduation rate for STEM majors (88 percent), which is higher than the rates reported at four-year doctoral institutions (52 percent), non-doctoral institutions (34 percent), or at other four-year small, private colleges (80 percent) as reported in the March 2014 Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) report, Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges.

The participants in the Dec. 4 White House summit were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the STEM fields.

Story published on December 04, 2014