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NASA Awards Alabama State University $1M to Enhance Engineering

By Kenneth Mullinax

NASA has awarded Alabama State University in Montgomery AL a grant totaling more than $1 million dollars to enhance minority engineering programs, experimental research and more.

ASU is one of only six minority-based colleges and universities across the nation to receive the grants under NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).

“I am humbled and excited that ASU is receiving this grant that will help our students to expand their sights and reach with a goal of them becoming engineers,” said Dr. Michelle Foster, chair of ASU’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, submitted the successful application to NASA.

The grant in the amount of $1,198,937 covers a three-year budget period and is part of the $7 million overall award to the six institutions. MUREP sought proposals from minority-serving institutions of higher education for projects aimed at strengthening their support of underrepresented communities.

Foster, the lead investigator of the University’s grant, believes it is important to help increase the number of America’s minority students entering into STEM-related programs and professions, especially engineering.
“For minority students, the numbers speak for themselves. Data tells us that only 2 percent nationwide of minority students have degrees in or are employed in engineering and physics. Our new NASA grant allows our ASU students to study in those areas and receive degrees in them, which is important to increase diversity,” Foster said.”

NASA said in a news release that, “Creating a future for humanity in the stars and continuing to improve life on Earth are tasks NASA can only achieve by involving all of humanity.”

Foster said the University proposed to NASA that it fund the ASU proposal because “Engaging STEM subject-matter experts, professional organizations, social science researchers, and industry partners to create a supportive community of engineering learners can help NASA achieve its MUREP goal.”

Foster said the $1 million-plus NASA grant would not have been possible without the involvement of ASU President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., and ASU’s Provost, Dr. Carl Pettis.

“Both President Ross and Provost Pettis have offered me incredible advice, assessment and mentorship that has expanded my horizons and knowledge. This grant is a direct result of their involvement in strengthening and promoting ASU’s STEM subjects,” Foster said.

“I am extremely grateful that Alabama State University was selected by NASA to be one of the recipients of this grant award,” said ASU President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr. “I would also like to thank Congresswoman Terri Sewell and her staff for their support in helping Alabama State University secure the funding that will help advance ASU’s initiatives to increase student and minority participation in STEM-related fields.”

Pettis said the grant is another opportunity to advance student success.

“The University continues its endeavor to produce top-notch students in STEM fields. This NASA grant allows us to provide additional research opportunities for students in collaboration with partner institutions . . . Having a partner like NASA really expands our reach as well,” Pettis added.

The other institutions to receive MUREP grant awards included the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts; Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida; J.F. Drake State Technical College, Huntsville, Alabama; Navajo Technical College, Crownpoint, New Mexico; and Texas Agriculture & Mechanical, Kingsville, Texas.