Eni Minerali knows that as a female scientist, she is a minority.
“You can see from major to major, the number of female scientists begins to decrease as we move from freshman year to sophomore, to junior and senior,” says Minerali, a master’s degree candidate in chemistry and mentor in the Science, Technology and Math Preparation Scholarships (STAMPS) program at UNCG.
What accounts for such a decline? Minerali believes part of the problem is the lack of female role models in her field. STAMPS is one initiative working to change that and increase student success for underrepresented groups.
“What UNCG and STAMPS are doing is they’re giving students so many examples of other women succeeding and doing great in science,” explains Minerali, who also participated in a previous version of the program as an undergraduate. “If you can see it, you can believe that you can do it.”
In January, UNCG received $1 million from the National Science Foundation to enroll 47 new STAMPS Scholars — academically talented and financially challenged minority, female, and first-generation college students seeking degrees in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math.
These students become part of cohorts supported by faculty and peer mentors, with opportunities for research, travel, and more.
Scholarships of up to $4,000 allow students to focus on school, while faculty and peer mentors provide a sense of community.
“A lot of evidence suggests that if students feel they are part of a community, they stay in school,” says Dr. Lynn Sametz, STAMPS co-principal investigator and co-director of UNCG’s Research and Instruction in STEM Education Network.
The four-year graduation rate for participants in earlier iterations of the STAMPS program was 57 percent higher than UNCG’s average four-year graduation rate, she says.
Lectures, programs, project opportunities, and field trips give STAMPS scholars exposure to scientific careers and research.
“They find out who they are,” observes Dr. Jeffrey Patton, a professor of geography and co-principal investigator. “They start to think of themselves as scientists and know that they can contribute.”
The STAMPS project is led by Assistant Professor of Educational Research Methodology Ayesha Boyce; Professor of Biology and Associate Dean of Research Stanley Faeth; Professor of Geography Jeffrey Patton; Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creativity Office Director Lee Phillips; and Research and Instruction in STEM Education Network Co-director Lynn Sametz.