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Stories about...Underserved Students/ Minorities in STEM

Science Policy Group Seeks to Foster Careers in, Educate About, and Advocate for Science Policy

June 14, 2017

While the Science Policy Group, which began in January of 2017, might be the new kids on the block when it comes to RSOs (Registered Student Organizations), they’re not hesitant to tackle some weighty subjects, like diversity in STEM or President Trump’s impact on science education. Their latest coup? They’ve invited Illinois State Senator Scott Bennett to drop by campus to participate in a dialog about Science Policy at 4:00 pm on July 13, 2017, at Beckman Auditorium...and invite everyone to attend.
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ESJ Scholars’ End-of-Semester Pecha Kucha Address Social Justice Issues in Engineering

May 23, 2017

To showcase their final projects related to social justice issues they’re passionate about, eleven engineering undergrads who were part of the pilot for the new, two-semester-long Engineering for Social Justice (ESJ) Scholars program presented Pecha Kucha in an end-of-the-semester event. (In this Japanese presentation style, 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each, keeping presentations by multiple speakers concise and fast paced). On hand to witness the May 8 final event, were a number of interested Engineering administrators, faculty, and members of the Illinois community.
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Engineering Grad Students Introduce High Schoolers to Engineering Via IRISE

May 11, 2017

In spring 2017, IRISE (the Illinois partnership for Respecting the Identities of Students in Engineering) connected Illinois Engineering graduate students in the ME598EO course with local ninth-graders from Centennial High School’s AVID program. The goal was to use engineering to provide a solution to a problem in our local community. So the students sought to address obstacles athletes in the Illini Wheelchair Basketball Program encounter while training, competing, or just in everyday life. Not only did the grad students learn a lot about outreach; the high school students learned a bit about what engineers do, and a few even discovered that they might like to become one.>
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Kelly CrossScience Policy Group Hosts Brown Bag Luncheon About Diversity Initiatives in STEM

May 3, 2017

On April 19th, a number of University folk interested in increasing diversity in STEM attended a brown bag luncheon, "Diversity Initiatives in STEM." The featured speakers at the event were Ellen Wang Althaus, Director of Graduate Diversity in the Chemistry Department, and Jennifer Greene, a Professor in Educational Psychology. Sponsoring the event was a new RSO (Registered Student Organization), the Science Policy Group, which began in fall of 2016.
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Kelly Cross“Double Bind” Study Examines Obstacles Women of Color Face in Engineering

April 10, 2017

“You don’t want diversity just for the sake of diversity, don’t want them just for the sake of having them in the room. You want them for their perspective.” – Kelly Cross

Kelly Cross and several colleagues have begun a three-year study funded by the National Science Foundation to examine the experiences of women of color in engineering. Aptly named “The Double Bind of Race and Gender: A Look into the Experiences of Women of Color in Engineering,” the study Cross is conducting, along with Jenny Amos, Kathryn Clancy, Princess Imoukhuede, and Ruby Mendenhall, is looking at how women of color are doubly disadvantaged. They not only have to overcome historical gender inequities inherent in engineering, but also face the many challenges racial minorities encounter.
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Girls Discover that Engineering Is Sweet at Introduce-A-Girl-to-Engineering Day

March 7, 2017

About one hundred girls (and their parents) from around the state (and even a couple from out of state), showed up at the 2017 edition of SWE’s Introduce-a-Girl-to-Engineering Day (IGED). The largest SWE (Society of Women Engineers) outreach event of the year, it was held at Illinois on Saturday, February 22nd. Not only did the participants learn a bit about the different engineering disciplines, they learned that like many of the female role models at the event, they too could do engineering and make a difference in other peoples’ lives.

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Student Spotlight: Hani Awni–Engineering for Social Justice Scholar

March 1, 2017

Hani Awni was not always interested in the role engineering should play in regards to social justice, but after venturing into the real world, he realized there was more. Hani is an engineering student who studied what he found “technically interesting” during his undergraduate years, but following two years working in Silicon Valley, he was left looking for more.

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UHS Scholar-Athletes Discover “Omics,” the IGB, at I-STEM’s DNA & Health Day

March 1, 2017

Taking a break from their regular classes… and the gym, on February 22nd, 63 scholar-athletes from the Urbana High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams visited the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) on campus to learn about DNA sciences during I-STEM’s DNA and Health Day. While learning about DNA and Health via a number of hands-on activities, they also got to interact with some Illinois researchers. During a tour of the IGB, they got hands-on experience with state-of-the-art microscopes and cutting-edge technology. And over a pizza lunch, they discovered some resources available for them should they choose to attend Illinois. What did the students take away from the event? Hopefully the notion that exploring the world of “Omics” is intriguing and fun and that they too could become scientists if they so choose.

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Engineering for Social Justice Scholars Program Helps Students Rethink Engineering's Role in Society

November 10, 2016

Are you passionate about righting historical inequities in our society? Do you have a penchant for STEM outreach to multi-ethnic middle-schoolers? For 18 engineering undergrads, the answer to both of these questions was a resounding “Yes!” So this fall, they signed up for Engineering’s new, two-semester-long Engineering for Social Justice (ESJ) Scholars Program.
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Local Students Learn About DNA During I-STEM's DNA Day Outreach Event

May 3, 2016

A group of 29 mostly underrepresented local students from Urbana High School and several Champaign middle schools and high schools visited campus on Friday, April 29 to participate in "DNA Applications: Interdisciplinary Perspectives for STEM Careers."Hosted by the I-STEM Education Initiative as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored National DNA Day activities, the event, primarily via hands-on activities and tours, introduced the local students to DNA, some DNA research done on campus, and some careers that deal with DNA. Students were also encouraged that they, too, could go to college, and were apprised of several resources available to help them achieve that goal.

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Akono Exposes Intrinsic High Students to the Mechanical Properties of Materials

March 8, 2016

“How are we going to fuel our civilization in the next decades, especially knowing that we’re kind of running out of fossil reserves? It really boils down to having a fundamental understanding of the mechanical properties of materials.”  – Ange-Therese Akono

Ange-Therese Akono, an Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, is passionate about building innovative, strong, durable buildings. That’s why her research involves understanding the mechanical properties of materials used to construct them. Akono is also passionate about passing on her enthusiasm for materials to the next generation, particularly underserved students. So on January 18, 2016, Akono and eight of her graduate and undergraduate students hosted a Structural Mechanics Workshop for 28 juniors and seniors from Chicago’s Intrinsic High School.

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ChiSE Program Exposes Chicago Public Schools Students to STEM...and Illinois

January 21, 2016

Instead of watching cartoons or sleeping in, several Saturday mornings a semester, 100+ Chicago Public School (CPS) 5th through 7th grade students can be found doing math and physics activities as part of Illinois' Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering (ChiSE) STEM enrichment program. Seeking to expose traditionally underserved students (and their parents) to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), ChiSE is comprised of a number of Illinois faculty, staff, and students who also devote their Saturdays to work with these youngsters in hopes of increasing their interest in STEM—and possibly even STEM careers.

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Adrian Gomez, a chemistry undergrad at Cal State, L.A.Under-Represented Students Visit Campus, Feel “At Home” at Illinois During ASPIRE

September 24, 2015

“We believe in the mission of trying to broaden participation; we believe in the value of diversity.” –Daniel Wong, Associate Director of the Graduate College's Educational Equity Program

With the Graduate College and individual departments, who helped provide meals, footing the bill, under-represented undergraduate students from all over the U.S. visited Illinois on September 20–22, 2015, as part of ASPIRE, a campus visit and early application program of the Graduate College’s Educational Equity Program.
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Chicago Youth Experience College, Fun STEM Activities at Illinois

September 24, 2015

“We believe college graduation is not an option, but an expectation.” – Wanikka Vance, Head of School

When 30 or so Chicago youngsters visited campus for a tour and some hands-on STEM activities on September 17th, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the majority of the students were three, four, and five years old. According to Wanikka Vance, the founder and Head of Foundations 4 Advancement Christian College and Career Readiness Academy, it’s never too early to begin shaping youngsters into young entrepreneurs and inculcating into them this paradigm: they’re college-bound.

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Rumya Raghavannano@illinois REU Undergrads Experience Growth Via Nanotechnology Research

August 27, 2015

"I definitely think the best learning experiences are those that push you out of your comfort zone." – Rumya Raghavan

Eleven undergraduate students spent the summer working in the labs of some of Illinois' world-class researchers as part of the 10-week nano@illinois REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates). Not only did participants perform nanotechnology research, but they were challenged both professionally and personally as they learned new things about nanotechnology, about life in a research lab, and about themselves. As a result of their experience, some decided that graduate school might be in their future; some even considering careers in nanotechnology research.
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EBICS REU participant Solomon McBride2015 EBICS REU Introduces Undergrads to the World of Research, Graduate School

August 25, 2015

While performing cutting-edge research at Illinois this past summer as part of the NSF-funded EBICS (Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Celllular Systems) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), the five students gained more than a deeper understanding of the subject they were studying; they learned time management, networked with researchers, and experienced what it's like to be graduate students.
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XSEDE Scholar Wanda Moses, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at Clemson UniversityPetascale Institute Introduces Students to High-Performance Computing

June 12, 2015

Most of the 34 students who attended the two-week Petascale Institute May 24th–June 5th are not in computer science; however, by the middle of the second week, they were glibly rattling off HPC (High Performance Computing) jargon, confidently referring to concepts most of us have either never heard of or have no idea what they actually are, like: OpenMP and MPI, vector accelerators, OpenACC, CUDA, debugging, optimization, and visualization. Their goal? To learn enough about parallel computing to be able to use Blue Waters or another supercomputer to analyze data for projects ranging from studying black holes, neutron stars, and galaxies, to natural language acquisition, visualization in cyber security, or protein folding using molecular dynamic simulations.
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Local students and SACNAS member Elena MontotoCena Y Ciencias: Supper and Science…and Role Models, Courtesy of SACNAS

May 18, 2015

The program, called Cena y Ciencias (it’s Spanish for Supper and Science), meets on Monday nights once a month. For supper, there's pizza. The science is presented by Illinois graduate students who are all SACNAS members. For the April session, the science was a hands-on activity about acid-base reactions. Wearing the conventional garb of scientists—white lab coats—the grad students shared their passion for science with excited Leal and Prairie School students who clustered around them, eagerly learning about acids and bases while glibly chattering in Spanish.

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Kelsie KellyKelsie Kelly Gives Back to the Community Via STEM Outreach and Mentoring

March 30, 2015

Kelsie Kelly’s goal in a lot of what she does is to pay it forward.

A Ph.D. student in Community Health, Kelly has lofty career aspirations which appear to have been influenced by her own experiences. For one, she would eventually like to start a women’s clinic—no doubt influenced by the many outreach programs in which she participated growing up. Her other dream—starting a non-profit organization that mentors underrepresented students—probably came about because both mentoring and being mentored were so important early on in her life...and still are: "I have a bunch of mentors in Milwaukee whom I still talk to regularly to make sure I'm staying on track," she admits.
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A BTW student makes a "potato battery" during the Brady STEM Academy after-school program.Brady STEM Academy Provides Role Models for Local African-American Boys

March 5, 2014

Some outreach-minded folk in chemical engineering have begun a new after-school program, the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy, hoping to make a difference in the lives of some local African-American boys. While programs providing hands-on STEM activities happen fairly frequently at Booker T. Washington STEM Academy (BTW), what sets this program apart is its emphasis on African-American role models—including the boys' own fathers.
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Allante Whitmore Stanley presents her Water Filtration project to teachers during the PIFSE workshop.iRISE Course Prepares Engineers for Community Outreach

July 2, 2013

Illinois graduate students who are interested in sharing their love of engineering with youngsters now have a new course at their disposal—ECE 598 EO: Community Outreach for Engineering Researchers—through which they can learn the ins and outs of outreach. Developed by iRISE (Illinois Researchers in Partnership with K–12 Science Educators), the course trains graduate students how to develop design projects then teach them to local middle school students, with the goal of creating classroom-ready teacher materials.
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Rebecca Ginsburg poses by a poster of the EJP Shakespeare class's presentation of The Tempest.Education Justice Project: Motivating Prison Scholars for Change

May 24, 2013

Every Friday evening, four or five educators car pool from campus over to the Danville Correctional Center to teach at the medium- to high-security prison for men. Part of the Education Justice Project (EJP), between 60–70 professors, graduate students, and others from a variety of disciplines volunteer their time to teach workshops on topics ranging from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) to Shakespeare.
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Rochelle Gutierrez interacts with a local middle school students at Noyce's iMATHS club.Noyce Scholars: Taking Student-Centered Math to High-Needs Schools

May 14, 2013

"Noyce is probably the best decision I've made professionally, and as far as my college career goes." Liz Denz

Liz Denz has wanted to teach math ever since her freshman year in high school. And Illinois' NSF-funded Noyce program, which provides scholarships for talented mathematics majors who want to become K-12 math teachers, is helping to make her and other Noyce scholars' dreams come true.
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Rochelle Gutierrez interacts with a local middle school students at Noyce's iMATHS club.Noyce: Training Math Teachers Who Foster Equity in the K-12 Classroom

May 2, 2013

This is Rochelle Gutiérrez' hope for her Noyce scholars when they finally become K-12 math teachers: that when they look at themselves in the mirror every day, they will be able to say, "I'm doing what I wanted to do when I went into education."
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Douglas JonesIGERT Trains Students at the Intersection of Neuroscience and Engineering

December 6, 2012

"We're trying to develop a culture and a community of people here on campus that are interested in the intersection of neuroscience and engineering."

According to program coordinator Pat Grenda, this is the goal of the Neuroengineering IGERT at Illinois. Short for "Neuroengineering: A Unified Educational Program for Systems Engineering in Neuroscience," the five-year Ph.D. program is funded by a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant. In its fourth year, the IGERT currently has 45 students enrolled in four cohorts.
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VINTG IGERT fellow Beryl JonesVINTG IGERT Students Receive Outside-of-the-Box Training in Genomics

November 16, 2012

Nine new doctoral students arrived on campus this fall to receive a new kind of training in genomics that "thinks outside the box." The premise of this training model: to produce a new generation of biologists on the cutting edge of genome-enabled science, who can specifically address how genomes interact with the environment to create diversity.
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Uni High student in Illinois lab.Uni High Students Experience
Cutting-Edge Research at Illinois

July 11, 2012

On the northeastern edge of campus, University Laboratory High school’s proximity to Illinois’ myriad research facilities made it an ideal partner for I-STEM’s pilot project offering summer research opportunities to high school students. Of the 50 or so students who applied, 19 were chosen on the basis of both their performance in science and math and of their application, which included an essay on their interest in science and how participating would prepare them for a possible career in science.
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Students work in a group during a Merit section at Illinois.S-STEM Grant to Provide Scholarships for Biology, Chemistry, & Math Merit Students

July 2, 2012

She wants to study chemistry at Illinois. She's familiar with the university because her mom went to school here. But because she lives out of state, it's too expensive. So instead, she's been going to a local college. However, she's been quite discouraged, because she wants to come to Illinois.
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Uni High camper works with her robot.Uni High Outreach Focuses on Diversity

November 9, 2011

Instead of lounging by the pool to cool off and work on their tans, this past summer, University Laboratory High School staff and students were running a summer camp for local youngsters. Being a camp counselor is one of a Uni student's many outreach opportunities. For example, these community-focused students participate in both SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) and Booker T. Washington tutoring programs and act as TAs in EnLiST, one of the University's teacher professional development programs, to name a few.
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