UC Davis Receives NSF Funding for Engineering, Sciences, Artificial Intelligence for HSIs

First Federally Funded Hispanic Serving Institution Grant

Latino grads celebrate.
Chicanx/Latinx graduates celebrate at a past commencement ceremony. Two National Science Foundation grants are expected to help UC Davis and other institutions increase the number of underrepresented science and engineering students who will contribute to the future STEM workforce nationwide. Among the funding is UC Davis' first federally funded HSI grant. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Will connect faculty and senior leadership at HSIs — and Minority Serving Institutions in general — to relevant networks and resources
  • Preparing for eligibility to allow UC Davis to apply for HSI funding is key priority

The University of California, Davis, received more than $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation to convene and engage faculty, researchers and industry experts in expanding research and undergraduate instruction at Hispanic Serving Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions, or HSIs and MSIs. The grants focus on computing fields identified as national priorities by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Graduate School of Management received the grants.

Among these awards is the first federally funded HSI grant given to UC Davis, a crucial step toward receiving an official HSI designation and recognition from the Department of Education. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities notes that HSIs — colleges and universities with more than 25 percent Hispanic student enrollment — educate more than two-thirds of the nation’s undergraduate Hispanic students. Minority Serving Institutions include, for example, HSIs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. MSIs train an increasing percentage of the students the country needs to meet future U.S. workforce goals.

Damon Tull, director of industry alliances for the Graduate School of Management and the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is the principal investigator and university lead for these grants.

Damon Tull
Damon Tull

“Both grants leverage the history of collaborative scholarship and innovative instruction at UC Davis in areas of national need,” he said.

“It is in the national interest for research-active institutions like UC Davis to engage in creative and meaningful partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions to scale and meet the emerging global challenges to U.S. primacy in science and engineering innovation,” said Tull. “We will implement and study a collaborative model to benefit students and their faculty on partner campuses.”

Marcela Cuellar, a member of the UC Davis HSI Task Force and associate professor in the School of Education who serves as program evaluator for both grants, agreed. “These grants are so important for faculty development and building research capacity to prepare and support students within STEM,” she said. As program evaluator, Cuellar will develop metrics, interview participants and measure program impacts.

Marcela Cuellar
Marcela Cuellar

Two programs funded

Under these awards, UC Davis will administer two programs for the National Science Foundation: The HSI Strategic Innovation Summit for Advanced Research and Instruction in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Information Sciences, and the Visiting Innovative Scholar Research Program for Institutions Orienting to National Needs, or VISION.

The HSI Strategic Innovation Summit is a two-day virtual meeting hosted by UC Davis that will bring together professors and researchers from HSIs, senior university officials, industry experts and government sponsors to explore ways to accelerate research and create undergraduate courses in artificial intelligence and quantum information sciences at HSIs.

VISION is a national four-year effort to recruit, train, mentor, support, and place early and mid-career doctoral degree holders in STEM fields to teach and conduct research at MSIs. The VISION program begins with a pilot to establish a community of research-oriented faculty from five Minority Serving Institutions who will serve as the intellectual foundation for research in the field of computing at their school. The faculty from these institutions will receive two-year fellowships to pursue their research, build connections to a national network of computing researchers and sponsors, and engage in training platforms at UC Davis for teaching and learning, innovation and entrepreneurship, and research program planning.

The VISION program provides senior leaders, Tull said, a “low-drag” means to expand research culture on campus and disrupt the cycle of high teaching loads that impedes research by faculty at MSIs. The VISION program will work with partners at UC Davis in the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Center for Educational Effectiveness, the Office of Research, the College of Engineering, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“Connecting faculty and senior leadership at HSIs — and Minority Serving Institutions in general — to relevant networks and resources is expected to increase the number of underrepresented science and engineering students who will contribute to the future STEM workforce nationwide,” Tull said. The HSI Strategic Innovation Summit is the first federally funded HSI program awarded to UC Davis. 

“The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is very pleased to partner with the GSM for this award,” the office said in a statement.

The office leads the HSI Task Force. Preparing for eligibility to allow UC Davis to apply for HSI funding has been a key priority.

Fall 2019 data for UC Davis show that 26 percent of enrolled undergraduates identify as Chicanx/Latinx. Although UC Davis must wait until the U.S. Department of Education includes UC Davis on its list of HSI-certified institutions before the university is a recognized Hispanic Serving Institution, this first HSI federal grant represents a major milestone and opens the door for additional funding opportunities and collaborations, UC Davis officials said.

Media Resources

Karen Nikos-Rose, News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu

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