The University of Arizona is one of only four institutions selected by the National Science Foundation to imagine the future of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) on college campuses among Hispanics, who are America’s fastest-growing population. 

Recognizing a nationwide need to more deeply engage Hispanics in STEM, Congress enacted NSF funding specifically addressing Hispanic Serving Institutions in its 2017 Omnibus spending bill. As a $100,000 host award recipient, the UA will invite thought leaders in STEM and education to campus on Nov. 18-20 for discussion, brainstorming and substantive debate around “the most critical challenges and opportunities regarding undergraduate STEM education at … Hispanic Serving Institutions,” according to the NSF. The conference also will serve as a platform for new and stronger institutional collaborations between UA and other HSIs. 

“This is an exciting award for the University of Arizona,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “The UA is proud to serve the Hispanic students of Arizona and our region, and this grant will help ensure that we are creating an environment that enables their success in vital STEM fields. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this work.” 

“The UA has outstanding STEM degree programs and is known for its innovative pedagogy to advance classroom learning, robust connections to community college partners and our 100% Engagement initiative to prepare workforce-ready talent,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UA senior vice president for research. “This award reflects the UA’s leadership in broadening STEM participation of students from all backgrounds and allows us to share research-based best practices to connect more outstanding students of color to these opportunities. As an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution deeply committed to academic excellence for all, we are thrilled to answer this call with this important award.”

“This national recognition reflects our deep commitment to the intersection of innovation and inclusion,” said Melissa Vito, senior vice president for student affairs, enrollment and strategic initiatives. “Long term, this conference better positions us to create more workforce-ready graduates, produce more degrees in high-demand STEM fields and ultimately attract high-paying STEM jobs to the state.” 

The award comes in the midst of significant growth in diversity within the UA’s student body. Students of color now represent 41 percent of all undergraduates and 51 percent of all new students from Arizona — an increase of 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively, over a five-year period. The UA previously was recognized as an “emerging” Hispanic Serving Institution and will seek full HSI status this fall. An HSI institution is defined in the Higher Education Act as a not-for-profit institution with an undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.

True to the collaborative nature of the conference, the effort to attract the conference to the UA was a cross-campus partnership involving numerous departments and investigators: 

  • Guadalupe Lozano, principal investigator, mathematics
  • Marla Franco, co-principal investigator, SAEM/AISS
  • William Velez, co-principal investigator, mathematics
  • Vignesh Subbian, co-principal investigator, biomedical engineering
  • Anna O’Leary, co-principal investigator, Mexican-American studies 

In addition to the UA, other conference host schools include the University of Houston, the University of California, Irvine, and Nova Southeastern University.