Strengthening STEM Workforce Preparation Through Undergraduate Research

Navy grant will help UMKC develop better tools to help students from diverse backgrounds find success

A workforce development program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, designed to bring more students from diverse backgrounds into science and technology careers, is one of 12 national Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Education and Workforce Programs to receive funding from the Office of Naval Research.

The grant will help faculty expand their capacity to provide students from diverse backgrounds meaningful research and workforce experiences in STEM degree programs.

“Equity-Forward Workforce Development Pipeline for Naval STEM Superiority” is led by Daniel H. McIntosh, Ph.D., department chair and professor of Physics and Astronomy in the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences. The $758,000 three-year grant will be used to implement and evaluate a new educational pathway framework to onboard, train and provide undergraduate research experiences to interested sophomore and incoming transfer students in one of four active research areas at UMKC that are aligned with Navy STEM priorities: cybersecurity, unmanned aerial systems, radio frequency simulations, and remote sensing. The Navy funding will support the development of competency-based research skills training courses, provide financial aid for historically underserved students, and offer paid internships for summer research experiences in any of the four research areas.

These pathways will provide STEM-interested students with 15 weeks of data analytics and technical skills training tailored to one of the four Naval STEM areas; faculty-mentored research experiences; internship programming through UMKC Career Services; and exposure to Naval STEM opportunities and careers.

The UMKC team is a partnership of faculty and staff with expertise in a variety of areas including STEM education and research, engineering, computer science, urban education and career services to provide complete workforce preparation. The team includes McIntosh; Travis Fields, Ph.D. associate professor, UMKC School of Computing and Engineering (SCE); Zhu Li, Ph.D., associate professor, UMKC SCE; Farid Nait-Abdelssalam, Ph.D., professor, UMKC SCE; Roy Allen, Ph.D., lead mechanical engineer, UMKC Missouri Institute for Defense and Energy (MIDE); Kaylan Durbhakula, Ph.D., assistant research professor, MIDE; Karin Chang, associate director of the Urban Education Research Center within the UMKC School of Education; Alexis Petri, Ed.D., senior director of faculty support in the  UMKC Provost’s Office; Tess Surprenant, interim director of the UMKC Career Center; and Audrey Lester, assistant director of the Undergraduate Research office.

The program is designed to benefit STEM-minded students from all backgrounds by giving them the inclusive experiences, intentional encouragements and skill development necessary to succeed in college and beyond.  

“This project focuses on equity to overcome historical barriers for underrepresented and underserved students and utilizes high-impact engagement practices to support the success of all students who are interested in research training and experiences,” McIntosh said.

He believes that university educators must do more than provide students from diverse backgrounds access to opportunities.

“To broaden student success, we must encourage inclusive engagement in their learning and workforce skill development,” he said. “The outcome will not only be vast improvements in equity but a thriving educational system that helps all students achieve their full potential.”

Recruitment for these courses will begin Fall 2021. Coursework will begin Spring 2022.

Learn more about College of Arts and Sciences

Published: Sep 30, 2021

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