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NSF Awards $2.9M to Support Underrepresented Students in Mathematics Research

Washington, D.C. - The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the Mathematical Association of America $2.9M in funding to support its National Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program (NREUP). The program’s goal is to increase the number of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds earning mathematical sciences degrees and help support them through college.

Since its inception in 2003, the program has awarded nearly $1.1M to historically Black colleges and universities, $900K to Hispanic serving institutions, and has graduated a total of 655 students. Over half the students in the program were African American (53%) and other student participants include Hispanic/Latino (33%), Native American/Pacific Islander (5%), and other (11%).

According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics 2016 field of degree report, underrepresented minority students received 22% of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees and 9% of doctorate degrees. The reasons for the paucity of minority students in undergraduate mathematics are multifaceted, which is why the summer program focuses on impacting these three areas: financial support, mentorship, and community-building.

The NREUP summer program is designed to reach minority students at a critical point in their undergraduate journey—midway through their program—as courses become more demanding and math coursework becomes more abstract. Many promising students majoring in math have difficulty adjusting to the increasing demands of their classes. Math achievements, and especially math failures, highly influence a student’s belief that they can succeed in their program. Our approach to reducing minority performance disparities is to provide students with supplementary instruction, financial support to participate, and a mentor for guidance.

Each year, the MAA awards on average 8-10 grants to faculty to facilitate a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at their institution. The grants help fund the program as well as compensate students to participate in the program. Students from past NREUP programs have obtained mathematical science PhDs, become visible leaders in the mathematical sciences community, and some have even hosted their own REU site at their institution.

“This program is one example that showcases MAA’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Michael Pearson, executive director of the Mathematical Association of America. “We are pleased to have received this funding from NSF to help support underrepresented minority students, as well as expand our efforts to reach more minority-serving programs, tribal colleges, and HBCUs.”

Applications for the 2020-2021 cycle will be available on November 2, 2020. Interested faculty should visit to learn more.