P120A190042: Program of Excellence in STEM-Environmental Education

(PE-STEM-Environmental Ed)


A major factor working against the increase in all STEM majors, including minority populations, is that a majority of secondary school students who will soon constitute our nation’s workforce are continuing to fail to reach proficiency in math and science, and many are even taught by teachers who are ill-prepared to teach STEM subjects. While many recent assessments show improvement in U.S. students’ knowledge of math and science, the majority still fail to reach adequate levels of achievement. For example, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s 2017 report (U.S. Dept. of Education, http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/), although 4th and 8th grade students are performing adequately on basic math tests, overall math performance in these grades has been exceptionally low as only 40% of students are able to at least partially master math in 4th grade (down from four years ago), and this statistic drops to 34% by the 8th grade. 


This data is not encouraging for America’s progress in the growing science and technology driven global community, especially since conservative estimates indicate that the U.S. needs to grow its overall STEM workforce to remain competitive on the global stage (NSTC, 2000).
In light of the need of increasing the STEM workforce, it is more imperative that the aforementioned fact that minorities are not choosing STEM careers be addressed. Despite these challenges, the need to increase the participation among underrepresented groups in STEM areas is vital to provide a diverse and more robust science production force, thereby stimulating more creativity and innovation via new perspectives, research, and applications (BEST, 2004). It has also been shown that students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields may be drawn to environmental based research due to the potential societal long term impacts (Taylor, 2007), still people of color only make up to 14-16% of staff in environmental organizations (Nagappan, 2018). These factors provide the opportunity to improve diversity in the overall STEM fields by looking to improve diversity in environmental-related research fields.

The Program of Excellence in STEM_Environmental Education (PE-STEM-Environmental-Ed) provides the valuable link between the STEM science and education curriculum and the classroom, and the various STEM departments at Florida A&M University (FAMU), creating a pipeline from K-12 potentially through to the PhD that will ultimately serve to increase the participation of all students in STEM disciplines related to environmental areas. The overall purpose of the PE-STEM_Environmental Education Program aligns itself with that of the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) from the U.S. Department of Education by seeking 1) to provide long range improvements in science and engineering education at FAMU, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU); and 2) to increase participation of underrepresented ethnic minorities, particularly minority women, into science and technological careers, particularly those with a focus on environmental science or related environmental research.


The goal of the PE-STEM_Environmental Education Program is to provide a structured model for increasing the recruitment, retention and graduation of FAMU’s environmentally-related STEM majors, through concentrated mentoring, advisement, and professional and research development related to environmental research. The approach is to focus the intervention on students prior to their enrollment at FAMU during their high school years.  PE-STEM-Environmental-Ed seeks to increase the number of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the STEM disciplines that seek and successfully graduate in these areas. This exposure focuses on participation in active-learning, stimulating environmentally relevant activities to inspire them to seek participation in those fields in their future education and career goals, while additionally motivating them to succeed in math and science courses in their present studies. 

These project goals are accomplished by the following structured 3-tiered approach:

  • Improving the preparation of area high school students to succeed in foundational coursework relating to environmentally relevant STEM areas of study;

  • Providing directed laboratory research experiences prior to FAMU enrollment through the Summer PE-STEM Environmental Education Academy and year round activities; and

  • Exposing students to opportunities and careers in the STEM-related environmental disciplines through tours and guest lecturers.


  • Establishing a student cohort in the STEM disciplines, that can be advised and guided successfully towards the college curriculum in these environmental-related areas;

  • Involving K-12 and FAMU students in monthly workshops designed to strengthen environmental-based student research and professional development;

  • Involving students with qualified and motivated mentorship from STEM faculty, graduate and undergraduate students; and

  • Providing tutoring in challenging subjects to help support successful matriculation through STEM majors with environmental applications.


  • Providing students with opportunities to participate in environmentally-relevant research that can be used to enhance their college portfolio;

  • Assisting students in strengthening their presentation development ability, public
    speaking, and other professional development skills through program activities; and

  • Utilizing professional connections through PE-STEM_EnvEd Program faculty
    mentors to connect former students with graduate fellowship and scholarship
    opportunities, as well as career placement.


These broad initiatives can be mapped to the following Project Objectives:

  • Increase the number of underrepresented K-12 students, especially women, that enroll in environmentally-related STEM-based disciplines in college, especially at FAMU;

  • Increase the GPAs of these entering STEM students in foundational courses (Calculus, Chemistry, Biology, Intro to Engineering, Physics, and Intro to Programming) and those related specifically environmental related courses (Intro to Environmental Engineering, Intro to Environmental Sciences, Sustainability, and Environmental Chemistry) prior to their enrollment, through summer preparatory courses, program workshops, and academic research opportunities;

  • Increase the retention of these students within STEM disciplines through advisement, mentoring, and research opportunities;

  • Increase the number of these undergraduates conducting, reporting, and presenting on environmental research within STEM disciplines;

  • Increase the number of STEM faculty involved in mentoring students involved in undergraduate environmental research; and

  • Increase the number of high school STEM instructors who have been trained and can effectively teach STEM-related courses to potential STEM students

Program Highlights (to date)​
  • TBA

  • Educational Mentors
    • Sunetria Edmond
    • Tolulope Fiona
    • Chanice Foster
    • Kyra Freeney
    • Jada Hoyle-Gardner
    • Jalaycia Hughes
    • Bunmi Ikunika
    • Gabrielle Johnson
    • Kelli Jones
    • Stephen Moore
    • Arriana Nwodu
    • Opeyimi Odewale
    • Siera Sylvester
  • Research Mentors
    • Gustavo Major
    • Cydney Offord
    • Jaleesa Smith
    • Ricardo Stewart

2020-2021 Mentors:

2020-2021 Participants:

  • TBA