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NSF 12-081

Dear Colleague Letter - Announcement of Efforts to Increase Hispanic Participation in STEM Fields

In keeping with the National Science Foundation's long-term commitment to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering education and career fields, the Foundation is pursuing a multi-faceted approach to significantly engage institutions, organizations, and individuals to broaden the participation of Hispanic students in STEM fields and careers. This approach will build on prior NSF Listening Sessions, national reports, project and program evaluation, and community input, and will provide for a further expansion and deepening of the knowledge base and evidence-based approaches in support of the following goals:

  • Increase the entry, retention and graduation rates of Hispanic students pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields
  • Expand and deepen Hispanic student participation in research experiences
  • Provide for new STEM instructional approaches, program models, and strategies in Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs, as defined in section 502 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1101A))
  • Stimulate effective STEM faculty development in HSIs
  • Support research activities in the Science of Broadening Participation focusing on the specific context of the Hispanic experience in STEM
  • Leverage increased Hispanic participation in STEM through partnerships with other stakeholders committed to broadening participation.

Specifically, as one element of its multi-faceted approach, the Foundation encourages enhanced participation of Hispanic Serving Institutions in a range of available programs in order to draw upon a larger proportion of HSI institutions than are currently represented, and thereby reach more Hispanic students. These programs include:

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact program officers listed on the program websites.

These programs, using various strategies, are committed to increasing the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of students pursuing associate and/or baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields, to preparing students for success in STEM higher education and STEM careers, including STEM teaching, and to improving our understanding of the factors that can lead to such outcomes. This Dear Colleague letter reflects NSF's interest in increased submissions of proposals from Hispanic Serving Institutions for funding requests that fall within the scope of these programs. HSIs with Hispanic students enrolled in STEM programs and/or programs that serve as critical pathways to undergraduate STEM programs are strongly encouraged to submit proposals, consistent with the guidelines and due dates described in the solicitations of the above programs. NSF especially encourages the participation of two- and four-year institutions that have not received significant NSF support in the past, particularly those that are considered HSIs.

Proposing institutions are strongly encouraged to work in partnership with other stakeholders similarly committed to increasing the participation and success of Hispanic students in undergraduate STEM education, such as sister institutions of higher education, industry and not-for profit organizations, professional societies, regional and state government organizations, K-12 schools and school districts, and researchers with expertise in the science of broadening participation. As appropriate, proposers are encouraged to target activities at key academic junctures: transitions from secondary education to two-year and/or four-year undergraduate programs, and/or transitions from two-year to four-year undergraduate programs. Proposing teams should build on successful models and research findings demonstrated in projects supported by the participating programs, as well as others. Over the coming years the Foundation hopes to support a growing portfolio of projects that improve courses, curricula, laboratories, mentoring, and undergraduate learning experiences in settings populated by Hispanic students pursuing STEM studies in associate or baccalaureate programs.

In addition, the Foundation also encourages and welcomes proposals for conferences, symposia, or workshops, as well as EAGER and RAPID proposals, that respond to one or more of the overarching goals articulated at the beginning of this Dear Colleague letter. Proposals may focus on any relevant aspects of research or practice related to these goals. Proposers must follow the Foundation's guidelines for Conferences, Symposia, and Workshops and for RAPID and Eager proposals (see Grant Proposal Guide, Section II.D). Prior to submission of workshop, symposium, or conference proposals, potential applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their proposed ideas with program officers in the appropriate program.

The activities described in this Dear Colleague letter constitute neither a special competition nor a new program. They are components of a multi-faceted strategy to expand the inclusion of HSIs in existing programs and to contribute further to the knowledge base that will inform any future approaches to broadening participation, particularly for Hispanic students STEM fields and careers. We look forward to continued ideas and evidence-based approaches that expand the inclusion of Hispanic students in STEM.

John C. Wingfield
Assistant Director
Directorate for
Biological Sciences

Farnam Jahanian
Assistant Director
Directorate for Computer
and Information Science
and Engineering

Joan Ferrini-Mundy
Assistant Director
Directorate for Education
and Human Resources

Thomas W. Peterson
Assistant Director
Directorate for
Margaret Cavanaugh
Assistant Director (Acting)
Directorate for

Edward Seidel
Assistant Director
Directorate for Mathematical
and Physical Sciences

Myron Gutmann
Assistant Director
Directorate for Social
Behavioral and Economic Sciences

Alan Blatecky
Office of

Wanda E. Ward
Office of Integrative Activities