The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Auburn University $10 million to lead a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiative for disabled students.
The award is part of NSF INCLUDES, a set of 10 “Big Ideas” addressing STEM diversity and inclusion.
The Alabama university will use the grant to increase the number of disabled students obtaining degrees in science and technology and conduct research to amplify career development opportunities.
Professor of mathematics Dr. Overtoun Jenda said 27 institutions are involved in this collaborative research effort, with Auburn leading the initiative. The first three months will include coming up with a strategic plan of action for the alliance to follow in the future.
What’s in Store for Students
The NSF-sponsored program has three goals: to increase the number of students with disabilities obtaining higher education degrees in STEM; to help these students transition to the workforce; and to work with colleges and universities to address the educational needs of students with disabilities in STEM disciplines.
Students will also receive mentoring, research opportunities, financial support in the form of stipends, and attend internship conferences.
“Persons with disabilities are one of the most significantly underrepresented groups in STEM education and employment,” said Jenda, who has worked with Auburn over the last 30 years. “They comprise a disproportionately smaller percentage of STEM degrees and jobs compared to their percentages in the US population.”
She believes this alliance will shrink that gap and bring more talented STEM enthusiasts to the forefront.
The Auburn-led alliance is subdivided into six regional hubs. Other hub-leading institutions include Northern Arizona University, Ohio State University, the University of Hawaii-Manoa, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the University of Washington.