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Bridge Program Giving Incoming Freshmen Preview of STEM

Mississippi Bridge STEM Program participants build model rockets and launch pads as a project in their summer camp. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Up to 25 incoming freshmen at the University of Mississippi are getting a head start on science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors, thanks to a summer session program.
The Mississippi Bridge STEM Program, funded by the Hearin Foundation under the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, began June 26 and runs through July 26. Participants are recent graduates of Oxford, Terry, Ridgeland, Houston, Southaven, Lamar, Germantown, Byhalia, South Panola, Hattiesburg, Pontotoc and Bartlett high schools, and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. Students are staying in Pittman Hall.
“All the students are required to take a math course of their choice and EDHE 105,” said Jacqueline Vinson, co-principal investigator of the Bridge STEM Program, EDHE 105 instructor and project coordinator for Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education, or IMAGE. “Students will also attend various seminars, including health promotion, career center, financial aid, counseling center, student organizations and so forth.”
IMAGE was born from the Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation, which is funded through Jackson State University by the National Science Foundation’s LSAMP. These programs began with the recognition that more could be done to stimulate growth in the number of STEM-educated professionals in the country.
“Congressional leaders recognized that we were coming up with a shortage of trained people in the sciences, and we were importing,” said Donald Cole, assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics. “Some forward-thinking individuals recognized that there was a need to increase the number of STEM graduates in the U.S., and they noticed that a big untapped market of that were minority students.”
IMAGE offers tuition stipends ranging from $500 to $1,000 that increase when students excel. One of the program’s major goals is to establish a sense of community among underrepresented students.
“Aside from supplementing students academically and financially, we’ve found that it’s very important to make sure they develop socially here as well,” Cole said. “We put quite a bit of emphasis on participation.
“The idea behind the summer retreat is to get away from the campus and to create an atmosphere for students to take the reins, show leadership. Out of that come our leaders.”
Together, the programs function as a pipeline, helping students transition through college and graduate school. Recent participants have gone on to earn doctorates across the STEM disciplines, and many have become leaders in their fields.
LSAMP supports sustained and comprehensive approaches that facilitate achievement of the long-term goal of increasing the number of students, particularly from populations underrepresented in STEM fields, who earn doctorates.
For more information about LSAMP, visit https://lsmamp.blog.olemiss.edu/.

By Edwin B. Smith

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