When physicist and engineer Stephen Cox first began encouraging minority students to study science and technology more than two decades ago, he faced plenty of doubters. “Many of the people just refused to believe that people of color can be involved in science and technology at this level,” Cox told Matt Erikson of Drexel University. But Cox proved them wrong through fifteen years of work as the director of the Greater Philadelphia Region Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), an organization that brings together the resources of nine Philadelphia-area universities to provide outreach, mentoring, and encouragement for African American, Latino, and Native American students to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The National Science Foundation-funded LSAMP has plenty to boast about, helping students earn 12,000 degrees in STEM fields since 1994, with 350 those being PhDs. According to LSAMP’s website, students nurtured by the organization earn more than 500 bachelor’s degrees each year. Cox believes part of the secret is recruiting students early in high school and encouraging them to take lab classes during their freshman year. LSAMP also focuses on introducing minority students to careers they might never have heard of. For his tireless work, Cox will receive the College-Level Promotion of Education award at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards in Washington, D.C. next month. Cox told Erikson, “The award thing is not as important to me. My reward is seeing students walk across the stage, dispelling any previous misconceptions.”