Georgetown partners with program to diversify STEM pipeline

The Summer Science Program (SSP), a residential enrichment program hosted by university partners across the country, is working to broaden STEM pipelines by engaging rising high school seniors from underrepresented backgrounds, according to an SSP International announcement featured in Higher Ed Dive. To increase participation of Black, Latine, first-generation, and low-income students in STEM fields, SSP International is doubling the number of students it will host this summer to 400 high schoolers; new university partners include Georgetown University, Georgia College and University, and Southwestern Oklahoma State University. 

Thanks to a $200 million bequest from Franklin Antonia, an SSP alumnus and a founder of Qualcomm, the program will also begin offering $3,000 stipends to qualified participants demonstrating financial need. The gift, according to an SSP release, “has shifted the trajectory of SSP to be an agent for change in the world of STEM education” as the organization works “to expand access to high-quality STEM education to students from all backgrounds and experiences.”

Critical experience at a ‘critical life stage’

SSP International, launched in 1959 and one of the longest-running pre-college programs in the country, allows high schoolers from around the world to participate in immersive educational experiences across four science fields, including astrophysics, biochemistry, genomics, and synthetic chemistry programs. Students interact with STEM departments at different institutions, learn about experimental science and research from guest lecturers, and collaborate in teams of three to complete a hands-on research project.

SSP introduces students to real-world lab and research settings typically unavailable to teens before college and offers programming that deepens students’ understanding of the skills needed to thrive in STEM fields and connects them with a global community of alumni and faculty.

“The design incorporates values of collaboration and connection, rigor and challenge, trust and respect, inclusivity and support—exactly what high-potential teens need at this critical life stage, just before they apply to college,” says Summer Science Program. “The experience accelerates their social and intellectual development, inspiring them to higher confidence and bigger dreams.”

Addressing disparities in STEM education

Students from underserved communities often face obstacles to accessing quality STEM education. Schools with high-minority or high-poverty enrollment often have less experienced STEM teachers, contributing to persistent STEM achievement gaps. Research also indicates that high school coursework and performance is predictive of college students’ STEM degree completion rates, and that early conversations about STEM are significant in shaping students’ career trajectories.

Without that foundation, students may struggle in college-level STEM courses. First-generation college students of color are more likely to face psychological and social difficulties as they pursue STEM degrees compared to their peers due to experiences of discrimination based on their socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic identity and feelings of being academically unprepared for college.

Related: ​​Website seeks to connect students underrepresented in STEM fields with scholarships >

How Georgetown is creating a more equitable STEM community

Georgetown’s Regents STEM Scholars Program seeks to address the critical shortage of underserved and first-generation college students who successfully complete degrees in the sciences. The program offers instruction, mentoring, and online technologies that facilitate student engagement. By providing more support, more structure, and more opportunities for these students, the program aims to create a scientific community in which all scientists feel welcomed and valued. Learn more about the Regents STEM Scholars Program.

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