Increasing Success of the Underrepresented in STEM

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For more than 25 years, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) has worked to correct historical underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in STEM disciplines. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Alliance formed in 1994 and has several regional groupings. The Greater Philadelphia LSAMP is a collaboration between nine Philadelphia-area schools, including Drexel University. Over the course of its history, the Philadelphia regional alliance has more than doubled the annual STEM degree production from its member institutions and yielded more than 10,000 students to go on to graduate with undergraduate, graduate and PhD level degrees.

Entry to Drexel’s arm of the alliance requires only that a student be an undergraduate who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of African American, Native American,Latinx or Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander ethnicity majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Participants can join at any point in their undergraduate career. Yearly, students meet with Drexel alliance director Marisol Rodriguez Mergenthal at least twice per term to review their academic and developmental progress and attend enrichment events.

Rasheem Clark, a BS/MS student studying mechanical engineering and engineering management at Drexel Engineering, first learned of the program in the lead-up to his freshman year, when he was participating in the Dragon Scholars program.

“I was impressed with the connections that LSAMP could help me make, not just to faculty and other students here at Drexel but to conferences like the Black Engineer of the Year Awards,” he says.

The program helps students by identifying professional development opportunities including seminars, conferences, internships, cooperative employment experiences, research or civic engagement. They also offer academic support, link students to scholarship and other funding opportunities, and encourage students to pursue advanced degrees. Drexel’s chapter of LSAMP currently works with more than 100 students, offering more than 20 unique programs and activities. In 2020, the program guided 20% of its participants into faculty-mentored research and 10% into graduate school planning.

Neil McNair, a senior studying materials science and engineering, says that the program helps him find community in a field that is still predominantly white, though LSAMP’s efforts are helping.

“It makes me feel connected,” he says. “It’s good to know that there are people with my skin tone who are doing what I do.”

Students interested in taking advantage of LSAMP’s programming can contact Marisol Rodriguez Mergenthal at or visit the alliance’s website.

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