STEM Spotlight with Dr. Angela Birkes

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Dr. Angela Birkes is committed to helping students pursue STEM careers, especially women and underrepresented minorities. Dr. Birkes is the director of the Peach State LSAMP, an organization that strives to increase the college success of minorities interested in STEM fields. LSAMP, the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program, works to increase "the quality and quantity of students successfully completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) baccalaureate degree programs", as well as increase "the number of students interested in, academically qualified for and matriculated into programs of graduate study." The Peach State LSAMP has partnered with the Office of STEM Education for years and the two programs share similar goals. The OSE speaks with Dr. Birkes to find out the opportunities LSAMP provides, as well as the program's future goals.

Where did you attend school? How did you become involved with LSAMP?
I received my BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University and received my graduate degrees at Georgia Tech, including a MS in Mechanical Engineering, a MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  After working as part of the research faculty at Georgia Tech, I decided that I wanted to pursue my passion and ultimate career goal to focus on K-12 transitions to college.  I am committed to ensuring postsecondary educational access and success for all students – particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for women and underrepresented minorities.

How long have you been a part of Peach State LSAMP?

I have been the director of the Peach State LSAMP for 1 ½ years.

How did the Program come to this campus? 

In 2004, the Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer in the Office of Institutional Diversity submitted a Peach State LSAMP grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The proposal was successfully funded, UGA received a 5-year award, and the Peach State LSAMP began in November 2005.

Why is LSAMP focused on the STEM disciplines?

The NSF-funded LSAMP program is focused on broadening participation within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics due to the realization that there are significantly fewer Blacks/African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic, Alaskan Natives, and Native Pacific Islanders at advanced levels in those fields.

Why is it that the number of minorities in the STEM fields is so low?

There are number of reasons ranging from lack of exposure to the various STEM careers, lack of preparation in math and science, the knowledge of high pay that is offered competing careers such as medical, managerial, and other professional fields, just to name a few.

In what ways does LSAMP help increase the number of minorities in STEM fields at UGA? What opportunities does LSAMP provide that are not otherwise available to non-LSAMP students?

Peach State LSAMP goals have focused on four major areas: 1) recruitment of students into STEM majors; 2) retention of STEM majors until graduation; 3) enrollment of students into graduate school; and 4) professional development for students, faculty and staff. In order to meet those goals, the UGA offers the following activities and programs:

  • High School Bridge Programs for Incoming Freshmen
  • Student Stipends and Research Scholarships
  • Faculty Mentored Undergraduate Research
  • Research Training
  • Peer Mentoring and Study Groups
  • Summer Research and Internships
  • Career and Academic Workshops
  • Tutoring and Academic Support
  • Travel Awards for Attending Local and National Conferences
  • Graduate School Preparation

What impact do you see the LSAMP Program having on student performance?

UGA has experienced a 121% increase in baccalaureate degree attainment among underrepresented minorities from 2006 – 2010 and I believe that the LSAMP program has been a key contributor in that increase.  At UGA, the LSAMP program has had a tremendous impact on underrepresented minorities participating in STEM research as undergraduates and pursuing graduate degrees and careers in STEM. 

What do you see as LSAMP’s future goals here at UGA?

In addition to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities who complete baccalaureate degrees in STEM and go on to pursue graduate degrees and careers in those fields, the LSAMP focus will include increasing the number of students who participate in research (both in the states and abroad), present at national STEM conferences, and pursue PhDs in STEM.  Another goal is to partner with other organizations in Georgia to provide awareness and outreach services to K-12 students to continuously increase the number of incoming STEM students at UGA. 

What is the most rewarding part of directing Peach State LSAMP?

Helping students and seeing their success academically in the classroom, in research, and in pursuing graduate school in STEM.

To find out more about LSAMP, visit http://www.pslsamp.uga.edu/. To see Dr. Birkes' staff page, go to http://diversity.uga.edu/staff/angela_birkes/.

Interviews with LSAMP Students

In addition to talking to Dr. Birkes, OSE UGA had the privilege of interviewing five students who provide perspectives of their time spent with LSAMP.

Jonathan Jones

ValaRae Partee

Daniel Pique

Eric Refour

Shanise Walker

Interview compiled by Molly Berg

 

STEM Spotlight

In order to highlight the work of STEM affiliates and grant recipients, the Office of STEM Education interviews outstanding educators involved in the community.

Dr. Susanne Ullrich

Dr. Tessa Andrews

Jeremy Blair

Dr. Nick Berente

Dr. Angela Birkes

Kaycie Maddox

Dr. Leidong Mao

Dr. John Mativo

Dr. Kristen Miller

Dr. Tina Salguero

Dr. Ji Shen

Dr. Chi Thai

Dr. Sally Walker

Dr. Jo Walther