LSAMP Program at Miami receives its largest group yet of minority students pursuing the STEM fields

Written by Imani Harris, CAS communications intern

LSAMP students work collaboratively on their real-world research projects.

August 23 marked the end of Miami's third annual early arrival program for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), which is a federally funded initiative to promote engagement and success of minority students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. The week-long program brings incoming students together for team-building exercises and a collaborative research project on a real-world industrial problem sponsored by Kroger.

This year there were 39 participants, the largest group of students that the program has had since it began at Miami in fall 2014. Miami is a member of the Ohio LSAMP Alliance, which includes 13 Ohio universities and community colleges.

"The goals of Miami's LSAMP program are to build a sense of participation in the campus community (peers, staff and faculty), increase knowledge of campus resources and support services, and build the confidence of students when making the transition from high school to college," explained Bonita Porter, director of LSAMP at Miami.

This year there were three segments to LSAMP's early arrival program: the ALEKS online math tutorial/practice modules that students worked on individually over the summer, a research portion held on Aug. 20-23, and finally the MADE@Miami program (sponsored by the Office of Diversity Affairs).

In the research segment, teams pursued research questions submitted by Kroger. Ten teams of four students participated in multidisciplinary teams, representing a wide cross-section of Miami's STEM majors. The segment ended with awards given for the best research poster and a cookout in Peffer Park.

The students then joined Made@Miami, which promotes the university qualities of mentoring, achievement, diversity, and excellence.

LSAMP students participate in a team-building exercise in Peffer Park.

One of the benefits of the LSAMP program was that participants got to spend a week on campus before a majority of their peers returned for Miami's Move In Day. They participated in a variety of activities both in and outside of the classroom.

However, it wasn’t just all schoolwork for these students. They also got to experience the beauty of the Low Ropes course and the Goggin Ice Rink, with some putting on ice skates for the first time. There was plenty of opportunity to socialize during these activities as well as at the cookouts held through the program.

"The friends that I made in this program years ago are some of my best friends today," said senior biology major Keiko Wilkins, who was recruited to LSAMP as a freshman and currently conducts limnology research with biology professor Craig Williamson.

Inspired by her experiences with LSAMP, Wilkins is now also the president of her recently created student organization, Students Together Empowering Minorities (STEM), which she says "fosters recruitment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented students in the STEM majors."

Along with Porter, a number of Miami faculty and staff members are among the LSAMP leadership team that recruits, organizes, and runs its early arrival program. These members include:

  • Richard Bretz, assistant professor of chemistry
  • Scott Hartley, professor of chemistry
  • James Kiper, chair and professor of computer science & software engineering, College of Engineering & Computing (CEC)
  • Dominik Konkolewicz, assistant professor of chemistry
  • Chris Makaroff, dean of College of Arts and Science (CAS) and professor of chemistry
  • Rick Page, assistant professor of chemistry
  • Stephen Wright, associate dean in CAS and professor of statistics

Special recognition also goes to Miami's Office of Admissions and the Office of Diversity Affairs for the success of their efforts.

Miami's LSAMP program is a collaborative effort between CAS and CEC and is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Kiper and Makaroff are the grant’s two principal investigators. For more information, visit the LSAMP program website.