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Contact: Christine Payton MARCH 21, 2011
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
The National Science Foundation has awarded UL Lafayette more than a half million dollars to help minority college students better prepare for graduate studies in mathematics and related fields, including science, engineering and technology.

Nationally, fewer minority students are completing doctorate degrees in these areas of study. The same holds true at UL Lafayette, said Dr. Nabendu Pal, a professor of mathematics.

“ We’ve created a mentoring program to help reverse that trend,” Pal said.
He and his colleagues, Dr. Aghalaya Vatsala, a professor of mathematics, and Drs. Patricia Beaulieu and Christina Eubanks-Turner, assistant professors of mathematics, developed the program, "Smooth Transition for Advancement to Graduate Education (STAGE) for Underrepresented Minorities in Mathematical Sciences: A Pilot Project.” The NSF awarded $548,880 for the three-year project.

Starting this summer, 15 students will attend the eight-week program at UL Lafayette, which will be presented by the faculty members.

Four UL Lafayette graduate students will assist the faculty, supervising study sessions and helping STAGE students with research questions.

The program has three components: intense courses in selected areas, guided research and professional development, including paper writing, seminar presentations and classroom teaching.

To qualify, an applicant must be a member of a minority group that is underrepresented among professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Those groups include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan natives and native Pacific Islanders. The applicant must be a junior or senior majoring in one of those academic areas with a minimum GPA of 2.75.

“ We’ll also look at what courses they’ve taken, to be sure they’re a good fit for the program,” Pal explained.

Eubanks-Turner, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Xavier University of Louisiana, said students from smaller schools may feel intimidated on a larger campus like UL Lafayette’s. “We want to give them a taste of what graduate school may be like — that it’s intense, but not overwhelming. We’ll show them how to start doing research, so they can be successful.

The program is open to qualified students from across the country; however, UL Lafayette is recruiting students from Louisiana’s historically black colleges and universities. Students from Southern University and A&M College – Baton Rouge; Southern University – New Orleans; Grambling University; Dillard University; and Xavier University of Louisiana are invited to participate.

Pal said once the project is complete, UL Lafayette researchers will continue to track the participants. “We want to know if they go on to earn Ph.Ds, become researchers or teachers, or if they go into the workforce in related fields.”


Document last revised Monday, March 21, 2011 1:51 PM

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