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Xavier gets $500,000 from NASA to build interest in science and math education

NEW ORLEANS (September 3, 2013) – Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in support of a pilot regional collaborative project designed to enhance student attainment and success for underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) during the first two years of undergraduate education.

The New Orleans Regional Collaborative (NORC) for STEM Retention will build on existing collaborations between a diverse group of six institutions to develop a comprehensive research and education initiative that will serve as a national model to improve STEM retention. Xavier is the lead partner in the initiative, which also includes Dillard University, Loyola University, Southern University at New Orleans, Tulane University, and the University of New Orleans. 

The goal of the NORC program is to increase the number of underrepresented minority freshman and sophomores actively engaged in collaborative research, to develop new partnerships with NASA centers and industry to provide industrial mentoring to students, and to increase the average graduation rate for underrepresented minority students in STEM fields.

Dr. Anderson Sunda-Meya, the Norwood Endowed Professor in Physics and head of the Department of Physics, who is also the principal investigator for NORC, said the program will provide students with comprehensive academic mentoring utilizing the highly successful Timbuktu Academy systemic mentoring model. 

“Through this program, 23 NORC student-scholars will be engaged in academic mentoring, tutoring, research experiences, professional development, and graduate school preparation activities beginning in the freshman year,” said Sunda-Meya, noting that the students will have the opportunity to participate in collaborative cross-institutional research in the field of nanocomposite materials through a summer research program and a bimonthly multi-institutional seminar series, and have the opportunity to interact directly with industry through summer internships and other industrial mentoring activities.

“As a result of this NASA funding, we will produce a national model for success in increasing underrepresented minority participation and retention in STEM fields, which can be replicated across the country to develop a diverse, highly-trained STEM workforce,” he said.

NASA praised the proposal for its “longitudinal methodology for program” evaluation and its “clear commitment” to engaging partnership universities in the program.

Joining Sunda-Meya as co-investigators on the project are Dr. Abdalla Darwish, Professor of Physics and Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Dillard; Dr. Patrick Garrity, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Loyola; Dr. Illya Tietzel, an Associate Professor of Biology at Southern University at New Orleans; Dr. Brent Koplitz, a Professor and Chair of Chemistry at Tulane University; and Dr. Kevin Stokes, a Professor and Chair of Physics at the University of New Orleans.

In the news…

  • NOLA.COM|Times-Picayune: Xavier gets $500,000 from NASA to build interest in science and math education
  • Myarklamiss.com: Xavier University of Louisiana Awarded NASA Grant for STEM Education

DR. AKUNDI AWARDED EMERITUS STATUS

Dr. Murty, who is retiring from the Physics Department, has been awarded the title of "Professor Emeritus" by the University. Dr. Akundi has served Xavier University of Louisiana in many capacities over the past 32 years.  He started as a professor in 1980 and was elected Chair from 1990-1996 and again from 2006-2013.
While at Xavier, Dr. Akundi has been the recipient of the following awards:

  • Professor of the Year, for the years 1990, 1992, and 1994 by the Physics / Engineering Department
  • Teacher of the Year Award by χ Sigma chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc, 1998
  • Teacher of the Year Award by Epsilon Tau chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. 2000
  • Endowed Norwood Professor of Physics, 2001-2003
  • Recognized for 8 years of service mentoring research students in the Model Institutions for Excellence Program, 2004
  • Norman C. Francis Excellence award in Teaching, 2011
  • Featured in Who’s Who among college faculty and teachers, for multiple years

Awards

  • Ms. Krista Burton, graduating senior, has won the General Electrical Minorities (GEM) fellowship. As a MS Engineering Fellow, she will receive a $16,000 total stipend over the entire Master's program in addition to the full tuition and fees at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Warm congratulations to Krista!
  • Dr. Sunda-Meya was honored during commencement as a winner of the 2013 Norman C. Francis Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching. Initiated in 2009, the Faculty Excellence Awards are designed to honor both "junior" faculty (those who have worked at XU for seven years or less) and "senior" faculty members (more than seven years of service). The winners are presented with monetary awards to be split with his/her academic area as well as a specially designed medallion minted to convey this distinctive honor. Congratulations to Dr. Sunda-Meya!

 

XAVIER PHYSICAL SCIENCES RANK HIGH IN DIVERSE ISSUES REPORT

A special report by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine once again provides documentation of Xavier's success.

In its annual "Top 100 Graduate Degree Producers" issue (July 2012), the magazine shows XU Physical Sciences ranking first in the nation in the number of African American students earning baccalaureate degrees.

The Diverse Issues report is based on a review of the 2010-2011 preliminary data distributed by the U.S. Department of Education. The magazine has reported on degrees conferred since 1992, tracking trends in degree conferrals to African American and other minority students.

Rank

Institution

State

2010-2011
Total

1

Xavier University of Louisiana

LA

38

2

Morehouse College

GA

21

3

Georgia State University

GA

18

4

Spelman College

GA

17

5

Jackson State University

MS

17

6

Savannah State University

GA

16

7

Hampton University

VA

15

8

CUNY Hunter College

NY

15

9

Alabama A & M University

AL

14

9

Southern University and A & M College

LA

14

 
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