UTEP receives $3M grant from National Science Foundation; Will help enhance STEM education for Hispanic students

El Paso News

From top left to bottom right: John Wiebe, Ann Gates, Cigdem Sirin, Christina Convertino, Roy Mathew.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The University of Texas at El Paso received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program.

The NSF awarded the funding to UTEP for a project that seeks to increase the number of Hispanic students, in particular, Hispanic women, who are competitive in STEM careers, UTEP officials said. The project is to center on improving students’ educational experiences through shared knowledge about effective practices, faculty professional development and community building, and inclusive, data-informed decision-making that leads to continuous improvement.

Leading the effort is John Wiebe, provost and vice president for academic affairs, who serves as the project’s principal investigator.

“This prestigious award from the National Science Foundation will help UTEP serve its mission as America’s leading Hispanic-serving university,” Provost Wiebe said. “It will allow us to leverage our place to create educational opportunities and environments for our unique student population.”

Other members of the UTEP research team are Ann Gates, senior vice provost for faculty affairs, Cigdem V. Sirin, director of the Center for Faculty Leadership and Development, Christina Convertino, associate professor of teacher education, and Roy Mathew, associate vice president for planning.

To achieve the goal of increased participation in STEM fields at the national level, the university will implement a replicable institutional approach that considers learning outcomes, students’ experiences, internal organizational structures, and external influences, according to UTEP officials.

A key aspect of the project to support long-term impact is capacity building for research on the interplay between STEM education and “servingness,” a concept of incorporating an organizational identity that not only promotes students’ outcomes but does so in ways that affirm and support students’ cultural and familial backgrounds.

The federal designation of HSI stipulates an institution must have an undergraduate Hispanic enrollment of at least 25%. UTEP has had a Hispanic student majority since 1986 and met the threshold to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 1992, the year the designation was first recognized by the Higher Education Act.

With a Hispanic student population of 83% and intentional implementation of inclusive excellence, UTEP stands as an exemplar among HSIs. It is one of only 17 HSIs designated as an R1 (top tier) doctoral research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

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