Vanderbilt engineering professor is recipient of inaugural NSF INCLUDES award

Program’s initial awards total nearly $14 million

The National Science Foundation has issued its first-ever awards for the NSF INCLUDES program, a comprehensive initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering by broadening participation in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) aims to improve access to STEM education and career pathways at the national scale, making them more widely inclusive to underserved populations. Over the next decade, NSF will expand the program, with the goal of developing a science and engineering workforce that better reflects the diversity of U.S. society.

Maithilee Kunda

Maithilee Kunda, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering, is the principal investigator of the Vanderbilt University portion of the South East Alliance for Persons with Disabilities in STEM project. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, associate professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program, is the co-PI.

Three other universities are partners in the SEAPD-STEM project: Auburn University, Alabama State University and Tuskegee University.

The initial recipients comprise 37 Design and Development Launch Pilots, funded through two-year grants aimed at supporting projects with the potential to deliver prototypes for bold, new models that broaden participation in STEM. They also include 11 grants for conferences that will explore the development of backbone organizations to support a national network of NSF INCLUDES alliances and partnerships.

“The overall project looks at ways to help students with disabilities enter into and succeed in STEM educational pathways, for example through undergraduate research experiences and graduate bridge programs. Our part of the project will be to host a conference in Tennessee to bring together other universities and share successful examples of these kinds of programs and how to expand them across the state and the southeast,” said Kunda.

NSF INCLUDES will invest in alliances and partnerships that scale up efforts to broaden STEM participation among underrepresented groups, including women, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, persons with disabilities, people from rural areas and people of low socioeconomic status. Multi-year NSF INCLUDES alliances will engage partners from private and corporate philanthropy, federal agencies and scientific professional societies.

Building on these initial awards, the program will provide networked testbeds for STEM inclusion, connecting participants and enabling them to determine the key components and approaches that lead to sustainable progress at a national scale.

Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering