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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 29, 2006

$1.7 million grant aims to lure minorities into scientific fields

Advertiser Staff

The University of Hawai'i-Hilo will oversee a new consortium of Pacific universities designed to boost the number of scientists from underrepresented minority groups, with support from a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation over the next five years.

UH-Hilo chancellor Rose Tseng is principal investigator for the grant, which creates the Islands of Opportunity Alliance, a consortium of 19 universities and colleges throughout the Pacific, including University of Hawai'i-West Oahu and the College of Micronesia.

The alliance was formed to launch a Pacificwide initiative to double the number of minorities in scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical professions. As a result, it offers a prime opportunity for minority students who want to pursue careers in any of these fields.

"As a university that has always valued diversity and provided education for the under-represented in society, the University of Hawai'i at Hilo is privileged and honored to take the lead in the Islands of Opportunity Alliance," Tseng said in a statement. "This program will play a vital role in bringing a culturally relevant and scientifically rigorous education in the STEM disciplines from member institutions within five years."

The Islands of Opportunity Alliance is funded through the National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program, which began in 1991 with grants to six multi-institution collaborative efforts called alliances. Today there are 35 alliances with more than 450 participating institutions.

The institutions collaborating in this newest group include UH-Hilo, UH-Manoa, the UH community colleges, Chaminade University of Honolulu, the University of Guam, Hawai'i Pacific University, American Samoa Community College, Guam Community College, College of the Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas College and Palau Community College.

"The opportunities are real and already exist in fields such as astronomy, biotechnology, computer science, nursing and diversified agriculture fields such as aquaculture," said Dan Brown, UH-Hilo coordinator of research and graduate studies and program director of the alliance.

"The recent earthquake drives home the immediate need for educated and qualified civil engineers both here and throughout the Pacific."

Correction: The Islands of Opportunity Alliance is a consortium of 19 institutions, including University of Hawai'i-West Oahu and the College of Micronesia. A previous version of this story gave an incorrect figure.