NSF awards PVAMU $1 million to fund research to study gifted black students

November 5, 2007
| By: Aubrey Bloom

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas - Prairie View A&M University has been awarded a $1 million three-year education research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to identify and evaluate the factors that contribute to the success of academically gifted black students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), who are enrolled at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). College of Engineering faculty members from Prairie View A&M University, Felecia McInnis Nave and Sherri S. Frizell, will partner with three faculty members in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University to conduct the study. Representing Texas A&M University-College Station in this effort will be: Fred A. Bonner, associate professor, Department of Educational Administration; Mary V. Alfred, associate professor, Department of Educational Administration; and Chance W. Lewis, associate professor, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture. The Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) assisted in developing the grant proposal and administers the grant. TEES is the engineering research agency of the State of Texas and is a member of The Texas A&M University System. The title of the study is An Empirical Investigation of the Success Factors Impacting African-American Students in Engineering and Technology at Historically Black Universities. Dr. Felecia M. Nave, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, will serve as the principal investigator and Dr. Sherri S. Frizell, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science will serve as the co- principal investigator. According to Frizell, "This project has the potential to have a significant impact in strengthening the education and research pipeline of STEM students at HBCUs and other institutions. Prairie View A&M University is a noted leader in producing outstanding African-American engineers and scientists." The goal of this collaborative education research project is to identify factors, through a mixed method approach that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative measures that most significantly contribute to the success of gifted black students in STEM disciplines at HBCUs. This study will be implemented in an effort to better understand how to structure successful collegiate experiences to increase the quantity and quality of students who graduate with STEM degrees. More specifically, this research endeavor will target students who have excelled in STEM areas at HBCUs. Few research studies have focused on minority under-representation and under-achievement in science and engineering to directly address the needs of high achieving minority students, many of whom struggle as much as their peers who are not identified as high achievers. Researchers feel the impact of this study will be far-reaching and serve as a catalyst for changes in success rates among blacks in STEM disciplines. Many programs in STEM areas have sought viable solutions to the problems associated with student achievement gaps, particularly among students of color. A study of this nature will provide concrete empirical data to identify and support viable factors that lead to student achievement, particularly for academically gifted black students. Programmatic initiatives, policies and procedures can be developed and subsequently implemented using these factors as a framework. Researchers at PVAMU and Texas A&M University will further develop strategies in the areas of academic affairs and student affairs. The research team seeks to find effective and cognitive variables which will be measured through six factors: curriculum, teaching style, learning style, campus programming, student-life and out-of-classroom engagements. Nave reports that "A major strength of this partnership is that it brings together the expertise of outstanding faculty who represent two dynamic colleges with a history of producing cutting edge research." "Texas A&M University is a noted leader in research; thus it is important to connect to faculty members at the institution who can provide essential feedback and information for this project," continues Nave. As graduates of HBCUs, both Nave and Frizell, possess first-hand knowledge and understanding of the HBCU culture and the critical role they play in assisting black students in reaching their academic and professional goals. The first phase of the project will include studies at the ten four-year universities accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, including Prairie View A&M. Once the initial study is complete, phase two of the project will include a dissemination of a quantitative study at the remaining HBCUs in the partnership with STEM programs.

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