As an HBCU with a land grant mission, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) has a legacy of service to underserved, rural and minority populations. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy reflects this mission and has a particular emphasis on helping to increase the pool of well-prepared underrepresented minorities in STEM majors and careers. These disciplines include: chemistry, mathematics, physics, computer science, biology, plant and animal sciences, and industrial technology. Having met this challenge head on for the past eight years and experiencing tremendous growth, the UAPB STEM Academy prepares to expand into a space of its own.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees and the Arkansas Legislative Budget Committee have approved construction of a $6 million STEM Academy and Conference Center and will commemorate the historic occasion with a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. next to the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Building on L.A. “Prexy” Davis Drive. The event is free and open to the public.

Funded primarily by Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965 under the U. S. Department of Education’s Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program, the new building is projected to be 29,000 sq. feet and infusion of green concepts in it design and construction. Space will be provided for a wet lab, computer lab, class/seminar rooms, student resource center, conference rooms, and an 8,000 sq. ft auditorium for large assemblies such as the Guest Lecture Series. This new facility will provide a central location for STEM scholars to interact, study, meet, plan, practice for professional presentations and in general prepare to join tomorrow’s workforce as well-prepared, innovative leaders.

The UAPB STEM Academy is a well-integrated set of enrichment programs designed to help meet local, state and national human resource needs in STEM areas. Currently, there are three enrichment initiatives, including the NSF-funded HBCU-UP Comprehensive Implementation grant which is foundational to the STEM Academy; the NSF-funded Arkansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation which is reflective of best practices learned in the HBCU-UP STEM Academy; and the U.S. Department of Education funded M.Ed. Degree in Science and Mathematics Education Program.

Some key components of the STEM Academy initiatives include: Guest Lecture Series, advisory board, Pre-First Year Summer Institutes/Academy, hands-on research/mentoring experiences, internships, study groups, curricula and infrastructure upgrades. Currently, the STEM Academy has 213 undergraduates and five graduate students.

In the past year, the program celebrated graduation of 51 STEM scholars; deployed 85 STEM interns at 42 sites across the country with 3 in France and Germany; continued funding by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority; STEM graduates in graduate/professional school in addition to beginning STEM related careers; and a new STEM Partnership with the Little Rock School District.