AAMU DEFEND Scholars Participate in NSF Sponsored S-STEM “Summer Melt” Program

DEFEND Scholars

The participation of DEFEND Scholars in the S-STEM “Summer Melt” Program helps to increase the number of underrepresented students

Through the grant Diversity and Excellence in Food, Environment and Natural-resource Disciplines (DEFEND), the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences (CALNS) at Alabama A&M University (AAMU) has garnered $1.38 million (2021-2026) from the Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program (S-STEM) through the National Science Foundation (NSF). These funds will assist minority STEM majors at the University and compare the overall success rate of high school students directly entering AAMU to community college transfers and also compares the success rate of the DEFEND Scholars with other students within CALNS.

The first step in this initiative is the “Summer Melt” program which brought 16 incoming Freshman and one (1) transfer student together here at AAMU for a month-long intensive session.  “Summer melt,” a common phenomenon in which high-school graduates apply, are accepted, and say they plan to enroll in college—but don’t.  The DEFEND Scholars were enrolled in an accelerated technology class taught by Dr. Elica M. Moss, (required for all students in CALNS), and were privy to individualized sessions with Financial Aid, the Honors Program, Career Development, the Learning Resource Center, and Freshmen Academy. The students also met with their advisors for the upcoming year from Freshmen Academy who worked with them on a one-to-one basis.  As a bonus, the Scholars wrote an essay to their future selves to include in a DEFEND time capsule to be read when they graduate.

Assisting Dr. Elica M. Moss, Environmental Science/Environmental Health Science (PI & Project Director), were a team of able Co-PIs:  Dr. Armitra Davis, Food and Animal Science; Dr. Kozma Naka, Forestry; Dr. Wubishet Tadesse, chair, Biological and Environmental Sciences; and Dr. James Walke, director, Institutional Planning, Research and Effectiveness.  During this “Summer Melt”, the DEFEND scholars were also able to engage with CALNS Dean, Dr. Lloyd Walker and the Chairs from the various departments. DEFEND scholars have majors that include:  Environmental Science, Forestry, Plant Biotechnology, Biology, Food Science , and Animal Bio-Health.

Over its five-year duration, the project will fund scholarships to 30 unique full-time students who are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in environmental science, food science, animal bio-health, and natural resource disciplines.  Ultimately, this project has the potential to advance understanding of which interventions are most effective for motivating and retaining African-American and students from other underrepresented groups in STEM.

Lastly, DEFEND will increase the number of underrepresented students who are globally and competitively trained to subsequently diversify the STEM workforce. For further information, please contact Dr. Elica M. Moss at elica.moss@aamu.edu or call (256) 372-8219.

NSFThis grant is funded by the National Science Foundation Award #2130386


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