Two professors as principal investigators at North Carolina A&T State University are among the pool of inaugural recipients of the first-ever National Science Foundation (NSF) Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) program awards.

The NSF INCLUDES is a comprehensive initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering by broadening participation in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Dr. Clay Gloster, professor, chair and interim associate dean for Graduate Programs and Research in the College of Technology and Dr. Gregory Goins, associate professor are investigators on the winning projects.

Goins’ winning project involves a collaboration with North Carolina Central University. Building Diverse and Integrative STEM Continua Using Socio-environmental Systems In and Out of Neighborhoods, better known as the DISCUSSION Network, will build an innovative social network that connects people with similar interests and values across organizational boundaries. The collaboration proposes to form a networked improvement community, with the purpose of increasing the participation of underrepresented ethnic minorities and women in the STEM enterprise

The win nets the group a $300,000 pilot grant over two years beginning in October. In 2017, the group will be eligible to submit another proposal for an alliance in the amount of $2.5 million per year over five years. 

“This work communicates the words and needs for families who seek avenues for their children to be included on the competitive trajectory for STEM careers.  Hence, we are uniquely positioned to help a key population overcome social and economic barriers that limit access to the STEM enterprise,” said Goins. “We have sought the views of the parents and stakeholders we serve.  Our activities pay close attention to real-world circumstances that reinforce self-confidence while providing a real sense of empowerment.”

On behalf of A&T, Gloster also collaborated with Morgan State University, as the lead group; Jackson State University; Kentucky State University; the National CARES Mentoring Group; Verizon; and SRI International for the Early STEM Engagement for Minority Males through a Network of Minority Serving Institutions.

“I am elated to be involved in an initiative focusing on broadening the participation of males from underserved populations in STEM fields and the STEM workforce,” said Gloster. “It provides a comprehensive experience in 3D printing, mobile application development, mentoring, and professional development for middle school students that will expand to include minority female students and a total of 12 historically black colleges or universities and minority serving institutions.”

NSF INCLUDES aims to improve access to STEM education and career pathways at the national scale, making them more widely inclusive to underserved populations. Over the next decade, NSF will expand the program, with the goal of developing a science and engineering workforce that better reflects the diversity of U.S. society.

The initial recipients of the NSF INCLUDES program awards comprise 37 Design and Development Launch Pilots, funded through two-year grants aimed at supporting projects with the potential to deliver prototypes for bold, new models that broaden participation in STEM. They also include 11 grants for conferences that will explore the development of backbone organizations to support a national network of NSF INCLUDES alliances and partnerships.

"For more than six decades, NSF has funded the development of STEM talent, with the goals of furthering scientific discovery and ensuring the nation's security, economy and ability to innovate. NSF INCLUDES aims to broaden participation in STEM by reaching populations traditionally underserved in science and engineering," NSF Director France Córdova said. "I'm gratified to see such a strong start to this program, which we hope will be an enduring investment in our nation's future in scientific discovery and technological innovation."

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