Aerial shot of campus.

Charting Paths to STEM Success for Underrepresented Groups

University researchers have received a National Science Foundation grant to expand opportunities for historically underrepresented low-income, minority and women students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Called INCLUDES (Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science), the two-year, $300,000 award funds the pilot project titled, “Sustainability Teams Empower and Amplify Membership in STEM” (S-TEAMS). Nested within the University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies’ Green Teams program and offered in partnership with the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS), S-TEAMS will promote collaborative change that increases diversity among public-private partners.

“Transdisciplinary teamwork is a proven way to foster critical thinking and problem solving,” says College of Science
and Mathematics Acting Dean Lora Billings. “By targeting underrepresented groups across the entire spectrum of STEM education, this program provides a supportive path into the growing field of sustainability science for an untapped group of students.”

Researchers include Principal Investigator (PI) Amy Tuininga, PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies director, as well as co-PIs Earth and Environmental Studies Professor and PSEG Institute Associate Director Pankaj Lal and Ashwani Vasishth, Ramapo College environmental studies professor and NJHEPS president. “We’ll test how barriers to STEM retention of underrepresented groups are broken down by building a sense of inclusion through teamwork and peer networks,” says Lal.

Tuininga notes that the program offers “sustainability training to students from a variety of academic institutions who will deliver projects to corporations and municipalities in summer 2018, while learning about teamwork, sustainability, professionalism and service to their communities.”

The grant will also accelerate the growth of the Institute’s innovative Green Teams summer internship program, which places students with leading corporations and community organizations to help solve pressing sustainability issues.