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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
Remarks to HRD Diversity Focused Programs PI/PD Meeting
Arlington, Virginia

March 25, 2002

Good morning. I am pleased to join you to talk collectively about strategies to increase the diversity in the STEM fields.

I'll begin by saying that investments in this year's Budget Request are key to developing our nation's STEM talent and to increasing the productivity of our workforce:

Our FY 2003 Budget Request is $5.036 billion, which represents a 5 percent increase, or $240 million more than in FY 2002.

  • The budget includes a second installment of $200 million for the President's five year Math and Science Partnership program to link local schools with colleges and universities to improve preK-12 math and science education, train teachers, and create innovative ways to reach out to underserved students and schools.

  • In order to attract more of the nation's most promising students into graduate level science and engineering, we are requesting an investment of approximately $37 million to increase annual stipends for graduate fellows to $25,000.

  • NSF's Learning for the 21st Century Workforce is another priority area. A key centerpiece will fund three to four new multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional, Science of Learning Centers to enhance our understanding of human learning and use information technology to promote learning. This will enable us to explore how educational institutions foster or inhibit learning, and eventually allow us to develop more effective strategies to prepare our workforce.

Also, we know that new discoveries will lead to new and emerging fields. So the focus of our programs must also be to prepare our students to adapt to change and to work across disciplines. They must be able to take the tools of their disciplines and expand them outwards to new endeavors and cross-boundary interactions.

We must not only see increasing diversity in terms of increasing the number of women and minorities into the STEM fields, but also recognize the unique and differing perspectives it brings.

The increasing complexity of science and engineering issues demands that differing perspectives be at the table where issues are defined and solutions rendered. What better way to effect global leadership than by capitalizing on our nation's extraordinary diversity!

This meeting provides a special opportunity to address a broad spectrum of colleagues that represent individual and collective strategies designed to significantly impact critical points along the pathway to STEM careers.

The partnerships that are represented have an impressive history of stimulating change and progress; and the prospect of enhanced partnerships across program lines holds the promise of unprecedented success in broadening participation of underrepresented groups at all levels of STEM.

The creation of more effective lines of communication among institutions funded through HRD programs can lead to a degree of general synergy that, in turn, can be focused on areas of individual institutional need. The opportunities for programmatic cross-fertilization and adaptation and implementation of successful strategies are unlimited.

Programs such as those represented in this forum are critical to NSF's continuing efforts to attract and retain members of underrepresented groups in the science and engineering enterprise.

This meeting represents a big step in the direction of extending the scope and sharpening the direction of some of NSF's most innovative, committed, and effective efforts to broaden participation in America's science and engineering enterprise.

Thank you.



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