The Groups Scholars Program STEM Initiative's mission is to promote and enhance first-generation, underrepresented students' academic and professional experiences in the STEM disciplines through research, structured mentoring, and educational support. Since 2014 the program has worked to assist students and provide them the tools and resources necessary to work in STEM fields. After seven years of operation, the program has been named a recipient of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine's 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award.
According to the INSIGHT Into Diversity website, "a measure of an institution's individual colleges' programs and initiatives that encourage and support the recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented students into all STEM fields. These include, but are not limited to, science and research fields, technology, engineering, and all math fields."
According to Kim Jenkins, academic advisor and STEM Coordinator, they are honored to receive the award. "What we do makes a difference in students' lives; providing services and connecting with others," she said. "We're very appreciative that what we do day in and day out is being acknowledged and celebrated."
Mary Stephenson, director of the Groups Scholars Program, echoed Jenkins’ statement stating that they had worked hard to nominate Kim and the program in the past and that they're incredibly honored to receive this award. "It's wonderful to be recognized after seven years of work, largely thanks to Kim's work and vision."
Jenkins says the STEM Initiative will continue moving forward and providing its students with the best experiences possible. "We will continue to build on what we have and stay with the times and what is relative to the moment," Jenkins said. She went on to say that diversity in STEM is ongoing and that they continue to bring in more opportunities for students to achieve future success.
Jenkins and Stephenson both believe that the success of the STEM initiative comes from the variety of parts the program provides. From mentoring to collaborating with other IU Departments, to partnering with various organizations like WonderLab Museum of Science, Health, and Technology, the STEM initiative gives students the necessary skills they need when working in STEM fields.
Stephenson recalls that one of her most memorable experiences with the program is the poster symposium, which takes place at the end of the summer program, where student present their research. "It’s amazing to see the transformation,” she said. “These students went from having little to no experience in research to being able to read, decipher, and apply information from scientific articles in a short amount of time.”
As the program continues to grow, both Jenkins and Stephenson hope to reach out to alumni and work with them to bring their experiences within the program and in the various STEM fields to the students.
"It’s encouraging to see those who’ve been touched by the program share their experiences with others,” Jenkins said. “It’ll be great to share their specific experiences with others and see the connections built as they share those memories." For more information on the Groups Scholars Program Stem Initiative, please visit their website.