The grant from the Department of Defense will establish the Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, which will seek to increase diversity in STEM fields.
It will particularly look at minority under-representation in computer science, mathematics, and physics and provide research support, academic enrichment and professional development through mentorship opportunities to students and faculty.
“The Center aligns with the College’s strategic priorities and ensures that our students are empowered and equipped to enter competitive STEM fields,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Spelman president.
The college will organize annual Women in STEM Speaker Series that will make faculty, staff, and students aware of the various emerging areas, including artificial intelligence and machine learning. It will also promote collaborations between faculty, students and DoD personnel.
According to the school, over the last three academic years, there has been a rise in students pursuing STEM majors particularly in 2017, when the college saw 26 percent of its students receiving degrees in STEM.
“Spelman has a strong record of educating women in STEM disciplines; however, there is still a lack of representation among women of color in STEM-related careers,” said Tasha Inniss, associate provost for research.
A recent study had found that the size of the STEM classroom directly affects female participation. The class size that exceeds 120 students potentially affects their academic success, such as critical thinking skills, increase anxiety and a lower sense of belonging in the classroom.
While the other studies show that the growth of faculty diversity in STEM is happening slowly in many higher education institutions across the country. The gender and ethnoracial faculty data suggest that only 4.6 percent of tenured faculty at such schools are Hispanic, and only 4.05 percent are African American.