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MDC Receives $865,000 Grant to Boost Minority Participation in Math and Science


Miami, September 9, 2010 - An innovative partnership between Miami Dade College (MDC) and St. Thomas University designed to boost minority interest and enrollment in math and science is continuing to make great strides this academic year, thanks to an $865,519 federal grant received from a U.S. Department of Education Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program.

Based at MDC’s North Campus, the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Connections program has three objectives: (1) to increase the transition of high school minority students, particularly women, into college level STEM majors; (2) to increase enrollment and retention of declared STEM majors; and (3) to develop mentoring networks to assist and support both STEM students and faculty at both institutions. 

Recent educational research concludes that many minority secondary school students face significant challenges in mastering mathematics and science coursework, which often results in a degree of underrepresentation of minorities in STEM-related careers.

From now until the end of the grant program in 2012, college officials hope to increase minority student participation in STEM subjects by 25 percent through a series of career outreach events and activities held at area high schools. STEM Connections was developed, in part, to bridge the gap between secondary school students and the attainment of a science, math or technology-related college degree and career. 

“College officials understand this dilemma and remain steadfast in their approach to help improve these statistics, said Dr. José A. Vicente, president of MDC North Campus.

“There is continuous concern about attracting and retaining more students in these subject areas. We face the potential of a serious shortfall in the number of individuals entering these fields, particularly as the economic base shifts increasingly toward technology.” 

Knox Phillips, director of MDC’s STEM Connections Grant, says that the advantage of getting an early start at the secondary level is that students develop knowledge and understanding of the subjects on a gradual basis, thus increasing their level of college readiness in mathematics and science. 

“The ideal approach for high school and college students is to master these subjects now. Otherwise they could possibly eliminate themselves from a whole range of careers by not successfully completing required coursework,” said Phillips.

Economically, STEM workers earned about 70 percent more than the national average just five years ago. He believes every major group of STEM occupations earns competitive wages in comparison to other industries and the employment outlook is also increasingly positive. 

An additional area of focus in the STEM Connections program is the Peer-Led Team Learning network, which allows students to form study groups so they learn critical thinking and problem solving skills, gain the confidence to solve complex problems, and, adds Phillips, “engage a community of independent scholars who will take an even greater responsibility for their own learning.” It is modeled after a National Science Foundation funded program first implemented at the City University of New York in the early 1990’s. 

The final component of STEM Connections is the Summer Research Mentoring Institute, a partnership with St. Thomas University is open to MDC students in their second year to better prepare them for continuing their STEM coursework.

Held at both MDC North Campus and St. Thomas University over an eight-week period, the hands-on, intensive workshop teaches students public speaking, presentation delivery, application writing, as well as access to computers, multimedia technology, science and research laboratories, field trips, a speaker series, and they may also be eligible for additional scholarships and stipends.



For more information about STEM Connections, visit

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist

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