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CUNY Leads Initiative to Expand STEM Programs for Hispanic Students

Queens College and LaGuardia Community College recently announced plans to continue enhancing their STEM learning programs for Hispanic and low-income students with funding from the United States Department of Education.

The partnership between the two institutions is the result of a 5-year grant awarded to CUNY back in 2016 by the U.S. DOE Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI)-STEM program.Under the project, articulation agreements made between 2-year and 4-year colleges will help streamline the process of obtaining a STEM degree all while providing research opportunities, career services, community outreach, and a refined curriculum.

“We all know that there’s plenty of evidence that if you teach STEM a little bit differently, where your mind-set is not that of a gatekeeper, but to teach, students actually succeed. Everybody in the community is going to benefit, because we’re not just going to teach better to Latino students, we’re going to teach better to every student at Queens College,” CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodriguez announced on Twitter.

HSI-STEM was formed to address the disproportionate representation of Hispanic professionals within the industry, focusing their efforts on improving the campus experience for students.

The project is structured to achieve this mission through three key attributes:

Improved Access: introductory “gateway” courses for the field will be redesigned by faculty to better prepare students for the next phases of their STEM programs, including courses in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Mathematics, Nutritional Science, Physics, Psychology, and Neuroscience.

Improved Learning: Hispanic and low-income students who struggle to find a sense of community within the field will receive support to facilitate their academic success, including supplemental instruction, tutoring, mentoring, and ongoing advisement.

Bridge: Students will be able to better map out the articulation of their STEM degrees through cross campus tracking systems and academic assistance.

According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Center for an Urban Future (CUF), CUNY has played a substantial role in increasing accessibility to technology careers for students of diverse and low-income backgrounds, currently awarding nearly 10,000 STEM degrees annually.

The number is a strong indicator that more New Yorkers are being prepared for careers that will involve leading the city’s economic recovery, an outcome which HSI-STEM is also striving for.

Congresswoman Grace Meng echoed similar sentiments to that of Chancellor Matos Rodriguez, emphasizing how, “STEM plays an important role in our city, state, and nation and will continue to do so in the future…It is crucial that we attract students to the STEM field, especially traditionally underrepresented students.”

Along with Queens College, LaGuardia has also been leading with comprehensive student support services, including advising, personal librarians, financial assistance programs, and scholarships to help students facing unexpected, short-term hardships.

“As a result,” explains President Kenneth Adams, “LaGuardia graduates are working throughout the New York region and beyond as engineers, biotech researchers, physicians, and software engineers, while some are in competitive graduate programs.”

Other campuses that have participated in the CUNY-wide project include Queensborough Community College, Lehman College, Vaughn College, Mercy College, City College of New York, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Over the past 4 years, the HSI-STEM program has helped to increase the number of Hispanic STEM graduates by 41 percent (1,201 to 1,696), according to data acquired by CUF.

While the statistics show that there is still progress to made with promoting accessibility within the field of STEM, programs such as HSI offer students of diverse backgrounds the opportunities they need in order to become more involved in the industry itself.
To view the entire Center for an Urban Future’s 2020 report, click here.

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