Purdue University Partners with U.S. Navy to Help Underrepresented Minorities Succeed in STEM Fields

Luciano Castillo, Purdue’s Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems in Mechanical Engineering, has been working hard to increase the number of Black and Hispanic students who pursue STEM fields. His latest initiative partners Purdue University with the U.S. Navy and a consortium of minority-serving institutions. (Purdue University photo/Jared Pike)

A new partnership between Purdue University, the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), and a consortium of minority-serving institutions is working to grow the number of underrepresented minority researchers in STEM fields.

African Americans and Hispanics comprise 32% of the country’s population, but 7% of the science and engineering workforce, and 11% of U.S. academic faculty. Studies show that underrepresented minority students are just as likely as their white peers to enter STEM fields, but that there are significant gaps in the persistence rate of minority students completing these fields.

“We call this a quiet crisis,” said Luciano Castillo, Purdue’s Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems in Mechanical Engineering, the program’s principal investigator. “It’s not just a matter of trying to raise numbers. Minority students feel that they don’t have the tools to succeed in science and engineering careers. We want to give these students every available opportunity to overcome those barriers, to solve the big problems of tomorrow.”

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The proposed program, called Blue Integrated Partnerships (BIP), has received a $2.8 million grant from ONR’s Mission Capable, Persistent and Survivable Platforms Department. In addition to Purdue, partners will include Tuskegee University; the University of Puerto Rico and its 11 campuses; the U.S. Naval AcademyNASA; and a growing list of industry partners, government agencies and universities.

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SOURCE: Black Enterprise, Kia Morgan Smith

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