NEW ORLEANS (September 3, 2013) – Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in support of a pilot regional collaborative project designed to enhance student attainment and success for underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) during the first two years of undergraduate education.
The New Orleans Regional Collaborative (NORC) for STEM Retention will build on existing collaborations between a diverse group of six institutions to develop a comprehensive research and education initiative that will serve as a national model to improve STEM retention. Xavier is the lead partner in the initiative, which also includes Dillard University, Loyola University, Southern University at New Orleans, Tulane University, and the University of New Orleans.
The goal of the NORC program is to increase the number of underrepresented minority freshman and sophomores actively engaged in collaborative research, to develop new partnerships with NASA centers and industry to provide industrial mentoring to students, and to increase the average graduation rate for underrepresented minority students in STEM fields.
Dr. Anderson Sunda-Meya, the Norwood Endowed Professor in Physics and head of the Department of Physics, who is also the principal investigator for NORC, said the program will provide students with comprehensive academic mentoring utilizing the highly successful Timbuktu Academy systemic mentoring model.
“Through this program, 23 NORC student-scholars will be engaged in academic mentoring, tutoring, research experiences, professional development, and graduate school preparation activities beginning in the freshman year,” said Sunda-Meya, noting that the students will have the opportunity to participate in collaborative cross-institutional research in the field of nanocomposite materials through a summer research program and a bimonthly multi-institutional seminar series, and have the opportunity to interact directly with industry through summer internships and other industrial mentoring activities.
“As a result of this NASA funding, we will produce a national model for success in increasing underrepresented minority participation and retention in STEM fields, which can be replicated across the country to develop a diverse, highly-trained STEM workforce,” he said.
NASA praised the proposal for its “longitudinal methodology for program” evaluation and its “clear commitment” to engaging partnership universities in the program.
Joining Sunda-Meya as co-investigators on the project are Dr. Abdalla Darwish, Professor Professor of Physics and Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Dillard; Dr. Patrick Garrity, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Loyola; Dr. Illya Tietzel, an Associate Professor of Biology at Southern University at New Orleans; Dr. Brent Koplitz, a Professor and Chair of Chemistry at Tulane University; and Dr. Kevin Stokes, a Professor and Chair of Physics at the University of New Orleans.
Xavier University of Louisiana is a private, co-educational institution offering a comprehensive liberal arts program and professional programs, including 38 undergraduate majors, five master’s degree programs and a doctor of pharmacy program. Xavier is the only historically Black, Catholic university in the United States and draws students from 39 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, the Virgin Islands and 7 foreign countries. For more information contact Xavier University of Louisiana, 1 Drexel Drive, New Orleans LA 70125, Phone: 504-520-7568, Fax 504-520-7933.