NSF Awards $100K Grant to TWU Researchers to Increase STEM Recruitment in Indigenous Communities

The project will look at the particular challenges Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Native Pacific Islander students face. The research team plans to develop strategies to recruit and retain more Indigenous students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

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A team of researchers at Texas Woman’s University in Denton have been awarded a $99,786 planning grant by the National Science Foundation for a project called “Transcending Barriers for Success.”

With the funding, the group aims to develop strategies that can assist in recruiting and retaining more Indigenous students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

The NSF planning grant is funded by NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES). The national initiative is meant to enhance diversity and inclusion when it comes to innovation by broadening STEM participation at scale.

STEM students at TWU. [Photo: Michael Modecki/TWU]

Specifically, the project will address challenges faced by Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Native Pacific Islander (NAAN-NHPI) students.

The research is based on recent studies that show NAAN-NHPI students earn STEM degrees less than any other minority group. A TWU press release states that only 17 percent of Native American and Indigenous students continue their education after high school, in comparison to 60 percent of the U.S. population. And, only 7 percent go on to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The TWU team is led by Amy Shachter of Santa Clara University, who is serving as principal investigator. It’s also supported by additional co-principal investigators: Marty Matlock of the University of Arkansas, Amy Sprowles of Humboldt State University, and Hokulani Aikau of the University of Utah.

[Photo: Michael Modecki/TWU]

These five institutions, including TWU, will anchor the research project. It will also be supported by the University of Hawai’i, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, and Alaskan Native communities.

“By including diverse perspectives and creating a culturally-conscious curriculum, we aim to improve STEM success, particularly for NAAN-NHPI students,” Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan, PhD, said in a statement. “The project provides the planning groundwork and network to ensure ongoing engagement of the NAAN-NHPI community, which will ultimately contribute to a more diverse and prosperous national workforce.”

Mirsaleh-Kohan is also a co-principal investigator and associate professor of physics at TWU.

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