Summer research for underrepresented minorities grows, adds engineering

Forty-three students conducted research at NC State as part of the Summer Leadership and Research Program, then presented their work at the end of the week. The program helps incoming students adjust to NCSSM.

For nearly a decade, the Summer Leadership and Research Program at NCSSM has been serving newly admitted underrepresented students. This summer, 43 students participated in the weeklong program, the second-largest group in the program’s history and nearly double last year’s cohort. The program supports underrepresented minority students, expanding their leadership skills while introducing them to research pathways at NCSSM. Partnerships with NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Science and — new this year — the College of Engineering allow students to gain hands-on experience in STEM-related research.

The engineering partnership is a valuable expansion, says Jamie Lathan, dean of distance education at NCSSM, who helped organize the Summer Leadership program in 2007 and facilitated the new partnership. “We had about 16 students at the College of Engineering, we’re really excited about that,” he says. Students worked on topics such as industrial systems and engineering, wearable technology, and health innovations.

Just as impressive as the research topics was how well the students handled themselves in the lab, says Javon Adams of NC State’s College of Engineering Academic Affairs, who coordinated the new  research partnership. “The students were an excellent, attentive, and respectful group,” Adams says. “It was a pleasure working with NCSSM. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the future.”

Angelitha Daniel, director of minority engineering programs at NC State, agrees. “NCSSM students represent the best and the brightest in the state of North Carolina, so it allows us the opportunity to showcase the College of Engineering with the hopes of the students enrolling and pursuing computer science and engineering degrees. I was happy to see [the students] so excited to be on campus. Anytime we can highlight what we do in the college and make it fun, it is a win-win for everyone.”

Students traveled to NC State each day to conduct research, then returned to campus for fun evening activities including a water fest and robotics demonstrations along with leadership and community-building activities. The program helps acclimate students to the academic and social environment at NCSSM before they begin in the fall, Lathan says. This year’s group was split equally between the residential and online program, another first.

“The biggest thing is that they meet each other, especially for online and residential students to meet each other and build those bonds, so when they come back they already have a network of friends that they can lean on,” says Lathan. “Even learning about laundry, the cafeteria, that built-in advantage helps them to take ownership of the school, and feel like ‘this is my school,’ while still being connected to their home schools and their home communities. For some of the [underrepresented minority] groups, feeling that ownership early on helps.”

As for the students? “They love it!” Lathan is happy to report. “I had a great time and am extremely thankful for being able to work with the researchers,” says one student. “I’m excited to come here in the fall and spend more time with the friends I made here.” The program “helped me become more confident,” notes another. Parent support for the program has also been strong, Lathan says. “Not only are their children getting their academic research skills, but they’re also learning life skills.”

Summer Leadership and Research is made possible with support from the NCSSM Foundation. Learn more about how your gift can make a difference.


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