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OK-LSAMP hosting symposium to draw Native students to STEM studies

In the second of this two part series, Oklahoma State University’s Kay Porter, a Bertrand family descendent, describes the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation’s upcoming symposium, “Mentoring Students for International Success” as well as internship opportunities available to Native American college students in the STEM fields.

OK-LSAMP, housed in OSU’s Division of Institutional Diversity under Dr. Jason F. Kirksey, is an alliance of eleven partner institutions in the state of Oklahoma seeking to develop programs that will increase the participation of minority students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Tell us a bit about the proposal that you’ve submitted to the National Science Foundation for a fall 2015 symposium to be held at OSU. 

“According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, 59 percent of white college students studied abroad during the 2011-12 school year. In contrast, minority groups saw fewer than 15 percent of students study abroad. One of the challenges of study abroad is that it is an opportunity that can seem daunting to students of color from a financial perspective. While summer research opportunities abroad are generally fully funded, anecdotal data would indicate that the discrepancy between majority undergraduates and students of color is even worse.

“Through a collaborative network between OSU, Louisiana State University and the Louis Stokes Midwest Center of Excellence, we proposed to host a two-day workshop and symposium at the OSU Stillwater campus. We hope to secure funding from the NSF, which will let us know if it has been approved in the coming months.

“If approved, this event will support a partnership across schools, disciplines, and international boundaries by providing a focused opportunity for LSAMP mentors, international mentors and LSAMP scholars to come together to discuss the student characteristics and attributes that lead to success in making significant progress on a short-term research stay abroad.”

Practically, what will symposium attendees experience and participate in?

“In particular, we propose to organize panels, presentations, and discussions to look at this theme from multiple complementary points of view including interactions with REU students that have a recent, or ‘fresh’ experience aboard, LSAMP faculty members. They’ll also get an opportunity to meet and speak with international mentors, industrial representatives and national lab and doctoral dissertation advisors.

“We also will have a specific focus on Native American Nations and their ties to these fields.

“The workshop will also involve a poster session and several broader impact activities that naturally flow from the event as a way to enhance student learning and to increase awareness of international research issues and opportunities. It will acquaint larger numbers of freshmen and sophomore students with specific research skills and personal attributes they should work towards, introduce them to a range of research and international career opportunities in numerous STEM areas.”

What other opportunities are available to Native American or minority students?

“OK-LSAMP program encourages students to apply for a minimum of five internship positions each summer. The students are supplied with numerous opportunities of programs seeking minority students, some specifically for Native Americans, to fulfill their summer research positions.
“The Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience (NAPIRE) is only for Native American LSAMP scholars who spend the summer in Costa Rica conducting field research with faculty on subjects such as biodiversity of the tropics. OK-LSAMP has sent 8 students for this experience.  

“Native Explorers is a program through the OSU Center for Health Sciences. Dr. Kent Smith, a Comanche tribal member and Dean of the Office for the Advancement of American Indians in Medicine and Sciences at OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, developed the program to encourage Native American students to pursue STEM careers. The Native Explorers summer program provides a learning experience in the labs at the Center along with a paleontological dig to introduce students to different fields of study.

“LSU wrote a grant, through the NSF, specifically for LSAMP scholars to conduct research in France that places scholars in laboratories with well-known researchers in state-of-the-art labs in Grenoble and at the Pasteur Institute in Lille.

“Oklahoma sent two scholars, one from OSU and one from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.  Two additional scholars departed in late January for their six months of research in Grenoble.  

“OK-LSAMP scholars have conducted research in 37 different international locations. In 2012-2013 21 scholars participated in experiences. The opportunities are there, it just takes an effort to seek them out and find them. OK-LSAMP is a great facilitator for that.”

“Sept.26, 2015 has been selected as the date for the Annual Research Symposium on the OSU campus and is free and open to all who would like to attend. We strongly encourage high school students to attend and learn more about research projects in the STEM disciplines along with other opportunities in the STEM career fields. LSAMP Scholars will present their research through oral and poster presentations.  

“Additionally, we have contacted the NASA Speakers Bureau and are anticipating a female speaker from NASA to discuss the trials of women in STEM programs and how to be successful in their chosen career program.

“Anyone wishing to attend may contact me, Kay Porter, at kay.porter@okstate.edu or join the OK-LSAMP Facebook to stay up to date on OK-LSAMP activities.”