For underrepresented students, gaining entry and persisting in STEM fields is often difficult.
Several studies have noted the challenges facing students of color and women. The American Enterprise Institute highlighted the disparities that exist in those industries, with White males (nearly 70%) dominating the landscape. Another showed the propensity for Black and Latinx students to simply switch majors during college or just drop out, at twice the rate of White students.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the next year alone the STEM field is expected to increase by 9 million jobs. Now is the time for those who have been left out of the equation or forced out to get back in.
In a quest to diversify that future workforce in STEM careers, the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) Foundation announced it is gifting $1 million in funding to three historically Black colleges and universities – Hampton University, Howard University and North Carolina A&T University.
In addition to simply offering better access to higher education institutions and their resources, the goal is to develop a more rich and inclusive pool of “scientific and policy leaders in environmental science, sustainability and social justice.”
“HBCUs have a long history of offering an exceptional educational experience while enriching the lives of Black students and families and providing the resources that empower students to succeed in various STEM careers,” said Calvin Ledford Jr., president of the PSEG Foundation. “This support is exemplary of our vision to build equitable and prosperous communities.”
Making the gifts count
The three universities chosen by the Newark, N.J.-based PSEG Foundation, which also has lended key support to organizations such as the United Negro College Fund and Thurgood Marshall College Fund, are among the top HBCUs in the nation at providing relevant pathways to students through STEM.
Howard University, located in Washington, D.C., is planning to utilize the funds for six scholarships to those interested in pursuing paths in environmental studies – students who have experienced pollution in their communities and want to make change for a more sustainable future.
“Support from the PSEG Foundation will transform the lives of select environmental studies students. We anticipate recipients of this award becoming leaders in environmental science and justice,” said Rubin Patterson, Ph.D., dean of the Howard University College of Arts and Sciences.
Howard has played a key role in building successful and diverse STEM researchers and leaders behind its many offerings including its Karsh STEM scholars program, whose recipients enter STEM majors and get on paths for doctoral degrees.
Hampton University, located in Virginia, said it will specifically target “high school seniors and freshman undergraduates from minority populations in New Jersey” with the grant money for its PSEG STEM Scholars Program. Of Hampton’s 4,600-plus students, the university says 20% study in STEM-related fields. The two-year scholarships will cover room and board and tuition.
“We are grateful for PSEG’s consideration of Hampton and its stellar School of Engineering and Technology to launch this program,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University president. “This project which will enable the growth and development of new diverse STEM scholars.”
Greensboro-based North Carolina A&T, through the Powered by PSEG Scholarship Program, also will be looking at New Jersey students as it seeks to increase student leaders in STEM who enter its the College of Engineering, College of Science and Technology, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences or the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics.
“The PSEG Foundation, like North Carolina A&T, is committed to education, serving their communities, diversity and inclusion, and corporate citizenship,” said Kenneth E. Sigmon, Jr., vice chancellor for University Advancement and president of The Foundation for North Carolina A&T State University Inc. “We look forward to the great things that will come from their support and engagement with the university.”