USM, PGCPS Partnership Receives $12.4 Million NSF Grant to Boost STEM-Career Pipeline for Minority Students

ADELPHI, Md. (October 3, 2008) - The National Science Foundation has awarded the University System of Maryland (USM) in partnership with Prince George's County Public Schools and Prince George's Community College a five-year, $12.4 million grant to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teaching and learning experiences in Prince George's County schools. Called MSP-Squared--Minority Student Pipeline Math Science Partnership--the project will address one of the most pressing state and national issues in education: the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM fields of study and professions.

Four USM institutions--the USM Office of Academic Affairs, Bowie State University (BSU), University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), and University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI)--in collaboration with Prince Georges Community College (PGCC) will work with core partner Prince George's County Public Schools to coordinate the project's multi-level strategy to enhance teacher development and student experiences in the sciences.

"Providing access to STEM education for students at every age and in every region of our state is critical to equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century," said Governor Martin O'Malley on the news of the grant. "This grant will not only support individual achievement in STEM disciplines, but will help expand the ranks of our skilled workforce-one of Maryland's key assets in the increasingly competitive global economy."

MSP-Squared will work to create a pipeline for bringing more minority students into STEM fields of study via a four-fold approach that includes:

  • Professional development programs created by UMCP and PGCC for teachers in grades 4-8 designed around principles of teaching and learning through inquiry science;
  • Summer research experiences for PGCPS high school science teachers with BSU, UMBI, and UMCP faculty;
  • Mentored teaching experiences for 100 undergraduate underrepresented minority students coordinated by UMCP and 50 undergraduate research experiences through BSU;
  • Early college/dual enrollment science courses through BSU and PGCC for at least 250 PGCPS high school students over five years.

"Minorities are underrepresented in STEM disciplines at every level from secondary science and mathematics courses through graduate school," said USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan, who serves as a member of Governor Martin O'Malley's P-20 Leadership Council. "Our state is a leader in the global knowledge economy, but we will not maintain this leadership if we do not develop strategies for attracting more of our young people into STEM careers in teaching and research."

"Prince George's County Public Schools and our partners at the University System of Maryland and Prince George's Community College are proud to have been recognized in such a meaningful way by the National Science Foundation," said Dr. John E. Deasy, Superintendent of Prince George's County Public Schools. "In making this award, the NSF has validated our work to provide academic and economic access to the children of Prince George's County, many of whom are traditionally underrepresented in college, particularly in the STEM areas. This award will allow us initiate new strategies to increase the capacity of our science teachers to deliver quality and engaging instruction, while providing some of our high school students' direct access to college coursework."

Prince George's County is one of the largest majority-minority school systems in the nation, with 132,000 students enrolled in grades K-12 (76% African American, 15% Hispanic).

Bowie State University (BSU) will act as the lead institution for MSP-Squared project.

"We at Bowie State University are very pleased to be part of this important initiative," said BSU President Mickey L. Burnim. "The future of our nation will depend upon how well we develop the intellectual and productive capacity of all our citizens and this collaborative effort will do much to inform and prepare young people in the STEM disciplines. We are especially excited about partnering with our sister USM institutions, the Prince George's Public Schools, and the Prince Georges Community College."

"Bowie State University is proud to be the lead institution for the MSP-Squared grant," said BSU Professor Anisha Campbell, principal investigator for the project. "Past collaborations have established productive relationships with our partners. We are looking forward to establishing best practices to promote STEM in underrepresented minority groups."

MSP-Squared will be aided by lessons learned through USM's Vertically Integrated Partnerships (VIP) project developed jointly with Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College. The program brought together science teachers in Montgomery County high schools with college and university counterparts in USM institution-based laboratories and classrooms to engage in a variety of science experiences and experiments tied directly to the Montgomery County science curriculum standards.

"Our previous work has focused, in part, on developing learning communities that bring primary and secondary school teachers in contact with university faculty and researchers," Nancy Shapiro, USM's associate vice chancellor for academic affairs who oversee the system's K-16 initiatives. "These communities have been demonstrated to enhance the professional development of our teachers and the science curriculum for the students."

The MSP-Squared grant is one of four NSF grants recently awarded to USM institutions. In addition to the $12.4 million to MSP-Squared partnership, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County received $2.2 million for The INSPIRES Curriculum for Engineering and Technology Education project and $500,000 for Maryland's Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Professorial Training for Mathematicians, Information Technologists, Scientists, and Engineers (PROMISE). University of Maryland, College Park also received$1.3 million for its Grid, Public, and GPU Computing for the Tree of Life project. The efforts of Senators Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin were instrumental in securing these grants for Maryland.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes." With an annual budget of about $6.06 billion (fiscal year 2008), NSF funds discovery, learning, research infrastructure, and stewardship to boost U.S. leadership in all aspects of science, mathematics, and engineering research and education.

Contact: John Buettner
Phone: 301.445.2719