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September 16, 2004 :: Federal Grant May Help New Center Attract More Diverse Students Into Critical Areas

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A Web-based, educational resource tool designed to help attract people from underrepresented groups into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is one step closer to becoming a “virtual” reality today.

Thanks to a two-year, $421,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, creation of the new Science Education Resource Virtual Diversity Center can now proceed.

The center, which is currently being developed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, will give students and parents a one-stop, online source for information into STEM fields. In addition, it will provide federal agency officials and others a way to readily see the potential impact of STEM projects funded by these and other federal grants.

“The participation of students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics must dramatically increase if our nation and state are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based global economy,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “With the U.S. population becoming more diverse, students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in these career fields must be encouraged to participate. We are pleased that the NSF is supporting this worthwhile project.”

State Regents’ officials are also hopeful that the center will soon serve as a virtual electronic campus, allowing for an additional avenue for colleges and universities to share STEM courses and degree programs over the Internet.

State Regents will hire an outside vendor to assist in developing the Science Education Resource Virtual Diversity Center.

“Oklahoma is no different than other states around the country that have had a difficult time attracting students from traditionally underrepresented groups into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” State Regents Chairman Jimmy Harrel said. “This center will build a knowledge-based community for federal agencies, higher education institutions, school districts, students and parents where they will gain better access to vital information.”