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NSF Awards KY-WV LSAMP $1 Million to Support Underrepresented Students Pursuing Graduate STEM Degrees

June 01, 2020

Johné Parker, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is a co-PI on the grant.

By Jenny Wells-Hosley


The Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KY-WV LSAMP), spearheaded by the University of Kentucky, has been awarded over $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support UK graduate students pursuing degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The grant will fund a Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) initiative for KY-WV LSAMP, a consortium of 10 colleges and universities working together to broaden participation and increase the quality and quantity of underrepresented students in STEM. The new program will support 12 BD fellows from underrepresented populations who are pursuing graduate degrees in STEM disciplines at UK.

“Bridge to the Doctorate fellowships are prestigious awards granted to select institutions,” said Fara Williams, director of KY-WV LSAMP. “This is a great opportunity for KY-WV LSAMP and the University of Kentucky to significantly impact the recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented populations in STEM graduate programs.”

Each fellow will receive a $32,000 per year stipend as well as support for cost of education for two years through the grant. Fellows will receive coaching, academic and community support, professional development, and access to opportunities for research, writing and presentation.

“I am excited about what the Bridge to the Doctorate program means to our campus community, and most importantly, the lives of underrepresented minority students in STEM disciplines, especially those who aspire for a terminal degree,” said Sonja Feist-Price, UK vice president for institutional diversity and co-principal investigator on the grant. “Heartfelt thanks and appreciation are extended to Fara, who played a significant role in spearheading the writing of the proposal. She remains thoughtful about the ways in which students in STEM disciples are supported in maximizing their potential, both on and off campus.” 

Since receiving renewed funding in 2018, KY-WV LSAMP has grown from 280 to 378 student participants, with over 50% of its graduating students continuing their education in graduate programs.

“LSAMP recognizes the University of Kentucky as a regional leader in providing opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM fields,” said UK Provost David Blackwell, who serves as principal investigator for the grant. “The Bridge to the Doctorate program underscores our commitment to building a stronger workforce and creating a brighter future for our state and region.”

Additional co-PIs on the new grant include Brian Jackson, dean of UK Graduate School; Johné Parker, associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Brett Spear, professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics.

Students interested in applying for a BD fellowship may do so starting Monday, June 8. For information on requirements and the application process, contact Fara Williams at 859-218-6326 or fara.williams@uky.edu.

KY-WV LSAMP is a unit based in UK's Office for Institutional Diversity. In addition to UK, the alliance includes Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Centre College, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Kentucky State University, Marshall University, the University of Louisville, West Virginia State University, West Virginia University and Western Kentucky University.

Named in honor of the former Ohio congressman, the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program is an alliance-based program designed to assist universities and colleges in diversifying the nation's STEM workforce by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented. Overall, the NSF program provides funding to alliances that implement comprehensive, evidence-based, innovative and sustained strategies that ultimately result in the graduation of well-prepared, highly qualified students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue graduate studies or careers in STEM.