UA Engineering Receives $1.07M Diversity Grant From NSF
Bridge to the Doctorate fellowships help students from underrepresented groups in higher education earn advanced degrees in the STEM fields.

By Jill Goetz, UA College of Engineering
Sept. 28, 2016

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.07 million to the University of Arizona's College of Engineering to help increase diversity among domestic students planning to pursue doctorates in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

The NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Program award, funded through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, covers tuition and provides $32,000 in fellowships for two years for 12 underrepresented minority students.

The goal is to help more individuals from such groups, which represent nearly a third of the U.S. population but less than one-tenth of Americans with doctorates, pursue graduate degrees in STEM disciplines and increase workforce diversity, said Jim Field, the project's principal investigator. 

"The University of Arizona has been a leader in efforts to increase diversity among graduate students, with nearly 20 percent of our graduate students in fall 2015 from underrepresented minority groups," said Field, assistant dean of graduate education in the College of Engineering. "The NSF Bridge to the Doctorate grant will expand this work and raise our profile as a destination campus for people from diverse backgrounds who seek high-quality graduate degrees in STEM-related fields."

The benefit could be especially great in Pima County, home of the UA, where Hispanic and Native American populations exceed the national average, Field also said.

The award recipients are: Kojo Plange, Daniel Lizarraga, Eze Ahanonu, Jose Ortiz, Joshua Rodriguez, Amanda Wilson, David Lopez, Noel Teku, Katarena Matos, Maryam Tanbal, Earyn McGee and Luis Ballesteros.

The UA award is dedicated to the late Maria Teresa Velez, who was associate dean of the UA Graduate College and mentor to generations of students. Velez, who had cancer, died last April 13. She is listed as a co-principal investigator on the project.

"Maria Velez spent her entire career expanding opportunity in higher education, especially graduate education, for women and members of underrepresented minorities," Field said. 

The UA is partnering with Arizona State University, headquarters for the Bridge to the Doctorate Program's Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunity. The program is named for the late Louis Stokes, Ohio's first African-American congressman, who advocated for broadening educational opportunities during his 15 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The new funding marks the UA's second NSF Bridge to the Doctorate grant, following a $987,000 award for 2012-2014. Of the 13 participating UA engineering graduate students, all earned their master's degrees and nine went on to enter UA doctoral programs in STEM-related fields.

In the latest project, announced in late August, 19 faculty members from the colleges of Engineering, Science, and Agriculture and Life Sciences are mentoring and advising the graduate students. 

The students will hone their professional skills attending conferences and participating in student chapters of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and National Society of Black Engineers.

Extra info

"Bridge to Doctorate: WAESO LSAMP, Self Efficacy and Academic Community for Underrepresented Minority Student Success" is funded by the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation – Bridge to the Doctorate Program, Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunity program, under grant No. 1608928. Co-principal investigators include Karl Flessa, UA professor of geosciences; Antonio Garcia, associate director of the Hispanic Research Center and professor of bioengineering at Arizona State University; and the late Maria Teresa Velez, former associate dean of the UA Graduate College.

The UA College of Engineering has completed recruiting students for the 2016-2018 NSF Bridge to the Doctorate program. For more information, contact Jim Field at 520-621-0704 or


Resources for the media

Jill Goetz

UA College of Engineering