The University of Houston System Board of Regents recently awarded UHD’s Scholars Academy with the Regents’ Academic Excellence Award. The award recognizes UHS institutions’ programs and initiatives that exemplify excellence in teaching, research and public service.
The UHD Scholars Academy is an academically competitive program in the College of Sciences and Technology that promotes scholarship and student success for undergraduates majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Participants benefit from faculty mentoring, hands-on research experience, and program-specific activities, internships and service opportunities.
Supported by several local and national grants and institutions, Scholars Academy offers scholarships for each of its students, as well as summer stipends for research participation.
Program director Mary Jo Parker attributes much of Scholar Academy’s reach to the establishment of a grant proposal agenda that benefits STEM undergraduates in the form of tuition, academic support programs, high impact experiences and dissemination of mentored research.
“There is a wealth of research that indicates the most prominent barrier to underrepresented students is tuition cost,” Parker said. “Providing tuition support remains a priority of the Scholars Academy because scholarship recipients are required to take a full load and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, propelling them toward the four- to six-year finish line of degree attainment.”
Program statistics show this method is working. Since its establishment in 1999, the program has produced more than 700 graduates with over 40 percent continuing on to graduate or professional programs. Historically, more than 51 percent of participants are accepted to medical school, and nearly all participants pursue continued study or work in STEM fields.
“The Scholars Academy’s success comes from a nearly 16-year commitment to a nationally-recognized faculty and peer mentoring program and the passion for student success demonstrated by the program’s staff and faculty from all three departments of the college,” said Akif Uzman, dean of the College of Sciences and Technology.
Parker agrees that UHD faculty make the difference.
“Our research faculty truly have made and continue to make the most significant difference in the success of our program,” Parker said. “They mentor, open their labs to early career undergraduates, and encourage their mentees to contribute to research, as evidenced through journal publications and professional conference presentations. Our professors model for UHD undergraduates what making your mark as a Ph.D. means, thereby encouraging them to pursue advanced degrees of their own.”
Scholars Academy will present its success story at the UHS board meeting on August 20.