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Southern to lead STEM challenge - Friday, November 20, 2009
Southern University’s Department of Rehabilitation and Disabilities Studies has received a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to design and operate a program to help students with disabilities succeed in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The grant, from the National Science Foundation for the Minority-Disability (MIND) Alliance Project for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, is part of a $3.1 million grant co-sponsored by Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Southern’s grant will run through 2014.

“This is a unique collaboration of two minority institutions of higher education to enhance participation of students with disabilities in STEM,” said Madan Kundu, director of the MIND Alliance Project at Southern. Kundu is also  Professor and Chair of Southern Department of Rehabilitation and Disabilities Studies.

The MIND Alliance Project is aimed at increasing the quantity and quality of students with disabilities receiving associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees in STEM disciplines and entering the STEM workforce. Disabled students are underrepresented in these fields.

“Southern is well poised to lead this challenge,” Kundu said, adding that the university has operated major mentoring initiatives in the past, such as the nationally acclaimed Timbuktu Academy and the Strengthening Minority Access to Research and Training (SMART)  program. “The expertise developed by STEM faculty involving students without disabilities will now be modified for application on students with disabilities,” Kundu said.

The department is using the funds to design and provide evidence-based educational and career development services to secondary school students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education in STEM fields; retain and mentor secondary and post secondary students with disabilities in STEM and supporting undergraduate students with entry into graduate programs and/or employment in STEM fields.

The project is planning a Fall Enrichment Institute in Science for undergraduate students with disabilities in Louisiana. The students will be required to complete an undergraduate class in STEM at their respective community colleges or universities with at least a B grade, participate in career assessment and exploration, and attend field visits, career days, job readiness workshops, the MIND Alliance Annual Conference, and receive mentoring and tutoring.

Upon completion of all activities the students will receive a $350 stipend.

During the summer, the project conducted an intensive week-long High School Summer Institute in STEM for 32 students with disabilities from Capitol High, Istrouma High Magnet, Port Allen High, Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, South Terrebonne High, Terrebonne High, and Ellender High schools.

The project provided mentoring, career assessment, and exploration training for the students.

“The students were exposed to career opportunities in physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science and engineering,” said Alo Dutta, principal investigator of the project and assistant professor of the Department of Rehabilitation and Disabilities Studies. “The participants received a certificate of achievement and $200 stipend.”

For more information about the MIND Alliance Project, please contact Dutta at 225-771-0047 or e-mail alodutta1992@aol.com or Kundu at 225-771-2819 or e-mail kundusubr@aol.com.