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Spelman College Receives Funding to Establish a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM

ATLANTA, GA – Spelman College recently received a $2 million grant from the Department of Defense to support its continued growth in STEM education.

The Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, which will be affiliated with the Office of Research, Innovation and Collaboration, is the first center of its kind and will serve as the hub for all STEM undergraduate research and training activities at the college.

“The Center aligns with the College’s strategic priorities and ensures that our students are empowered and equipped to enter competitive STEM fields,” says Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., Spelman president. “We are honored to be awarded this grant, and to have the support of the Department of Defense in assisting Spelman in fulfilling its mission to diversify STEM.”

Spelman is one of six “model institutions for excellence” designated by the National Science Foundation for its significant track record of recruiting, retaining and graduating minority women in the sciences. Over the past three academic years, the percentage of students pursuing STEM majors at Spelman has grown significantly. In 2017, 26 percent of Spelman students received degrees in STEM compared to 16 percent at other HBCUs and 17 percent at other liberal arts colleges.

The Center seeks to address minority under-representation in the sciences, particularly in computer science, mathematics and physics, explains Tasha Inniss, Ph.D., associate provost for research. “Spelman has a strong record of educating women in STEM disciplines; however, there is still a lack of representation among women of color in STEM-related careers,” says Dr. Inniss.

The Center will offer three main access points for students and faculty, including research support, academic enrichment, and professional development through mentorship opportunities. In addition, the grant will allow the college to introduce an annual Women in STEM Speaker Series, designed to increase knowledge among faculty, staff, and students about emerging areas, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science.

The Center also will encourage year-round research collaborations between faculty, students and DoD personnel, which is expected to increase the capacity of faculty to do research, says Dr. Inniss. “Our overall goal is to increase the skills of our students and resources for our faculty,” she says.

Recently, Spelman participated in the annual second annual HBCU Diversity in Tech Summit, where 47 companies, 34 HBCUs, and members of Congress gathered for conversations around tech diversity and student preparation for careers within emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

The college is also part of a new initiative designed to prepare students within the Atlanta University Center Consortium to meet the growing demand for data scientists and data analytics experts. Funded by the UnitedHealth Group, the five-year $8.25 million investment in the AUCC and its membership: Spelman, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Morehouse School of Medicine, will fund the launch of the Atlanta University Center Data Science Initiative. In addition, Spelman recently announced a new scholarship initiative with, designed to help bridge the gender-divide within the tech sector. The scholarship initiative is designed to provide women students with the funding needed to advance their education in STEM.

Undergraduate research and training programs at the college have been supported over the last 30 years by the NSF, National Institutes of Health, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Security Agency, and the Department of Education.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the college’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The college’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the college No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff, and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit