Atlanta, GA, United States
Atlanta, GA, United States

Spelman College is a four-year liberal arts women's college located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The college is part of the Atlanta University Center academic consortium in Atlanta. Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman was the fourth historically black female institution of higher education to receive its collegiate charter in 1924. It thus holds the distinction of being one of America's oldest historically black colleges for women.Spelman is ranked among the nation's top liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report. The college is ranked among the top 50 four-year colleges and universities for producing Fulbright Scholars, and was ranked the second largest producer of African-American college graduates who attend medical school. Forbes ranks Spelman among the nation's top ten best women's colleges. Moreover, Spelman has been ranked the #1 regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report and is ranked among the Best 373 Colleges and Universities in America by the Princeton Review.Spelman is often reckoned as the Radcliffe, Wellesley or Smith of the African-American world. It has a longstanding relationship with all-male Morehouse College. In 1881, both Morehouse and Spelman students were studying in the basement of Atlanta's Friendship Baptist Church.Spelman is the alma mater of thousands of notable Americans including the CEO of Sam's Club and former Executive Vice President of Walmart Rosalind Brewer, Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker; Dean of Harvard College Evelynn M. Hammonds, activist and Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, musician, activist & historian Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon , writer Pearl Cleage, TV personality Rolanda Watts, Opera star Mattiwilda Dobbs, actors LaTanya Richardson, Adrienne-Joi Johnson, Keshia Knight Pulliam and many other luminaries in the arts, education, science, business, and the armed forces.In 2013, Spelman College decided to drop varsity athletics and leave the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Using money originally budgeted to the sports programs, they created wellness programs available for all students. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 1.75M | Year: 2014

Implementation Projects in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Undergraduate Program provide support to design, implement, study and assess comprehensive institutional efforts to increase the number of students and the quality of their preparation by strengthening STEM education and research. This implementation project at Spelman College seeks to increase the number of African American women who pursue STEM-related advanced degrees and fields, particularly in PhD programs, while at the same time addressing the quality of the educational experience. Preliminary data from other work at Spelman College reveal an increase in the number of students identifying interest in earning advanced STEM degrees following course-based research experiences and summer research experiences. The project is guided and informed by an on-going evaluation.

New insights on integrating teaching and research in undergraduate STEM education could work to foster success for student retention and faculty productivity, especially at small liberal arts and minority-serving institutions. This project is designed to provide relatively novel undergraduate development activities that will enhance the undergraduate student research experience by expanding the ways Spelman College STEM undergraduate students gain research experiences through directed-supplemental instruction, investigative laboratories, course-based and summer research experiences. One key factor in implementing this program is a small cohort of postdoctoral fellows gaining both extensive research experiences and teaching experiences in pedagogy, course design and student mentoring. This project will use undergraduate research experiences as a means to address the transition from undergraduate to graduate STEM programs, ultimately leading to advanced degrees. It is proposed that through curricular research opportunities, faculty at minority serving institutions or small liberal arts colleges seeking to achieve excellence in teaching and research could improve the efficiency of their effort by conducting a single activity with multiple beneficial outcomes.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Systems and Synthetic Biology | Award Amount: 207.87K | Year: 2015

Aging is a fundamental question in biology, yet its mechanism remains elusive despite decades of research. Using mathematical approaches coupled with laboratory experiments, this study will illustrate the basic principles of cellular aging and shed new light on how dietary restriction extends lifespan. Using a novel mathematical model that demonstrates how aging in yeast cells emerges and what genes and their interactions are involved, the close-connection between cellular aging and the robustness of the gene interactions involved will be examined. Given the lack of adequate methods to evaluate changes in genes and their interactions involved in cellular aging, this novel mathematical approach for data analysis could transform what we know about how cells age. Coupled to this research, the educational component of the project will provide cross-disciplinary training to minority students and cultivate their interests in quantitative biology through integrating research with teaching, a student Chapter for the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, tutorial workshops, and broad dissemination of educational materials. Additionally, a new Systems Biology course will contribute to a new Bioinformatics and Systems Biology minor at Spelman College. Research tutorials will be uploaded to YouTube, open research projects will be uploaded to GitHub, and an open research blog will be developed and maintained. In summary, this project will provide training to minority undergraduates in mathematics, computing, and systems biology at a historically black college for women.

The overarching goal of this project will focus on aging from the perspective of gene networks through an integrated research and teaching approach. Cellular aging will be addressed using the budding yeast, a single-cell organism as a model system. The current knowledge on cellular aging lacks coherence, and a major logical gap exists between molecular pathways of aging and population characteristics of aging. Hundreds of yeast genes are known to influence lifespan, but paradoxically, not a single gene can be claimed as a direct cause of aging. Different and even opposite pathways have been observed when experiments are performed in different ways. Despite the complexity of aging, the lifespan of many species can be extended by dietary restriction. This seemingly complicated picture and the evolutionarily conserved lifespan extension effect of dietary restriction will be addressed by the core idea of the study, that cellular aging is an emergent property of stochastic gene networks. A probabilistic gene network model for cellular aging will be used to illustrate the conserved lifespan extension mechanism of dietary restriction in the model organism of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and study how the organization and dynamics of the yeast gene networks will influence the aging process. The first objective is to test a hypothesis that dietary restriction extends lifespan by improving reliability of gene interaction through analyzing lifespan data of hundreds of yeast mutants. The second objective is to further develop the theoretical foundation of the network model for cellular aging.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CROSS-DIRECTORATE ACTIV PROGR | Award Amount: 199.77K | Year: 2016

The National Science Foundation uses the Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) funding mechanism to support exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches. This EAGER project was awarded as a result of the invitation in the Dear Colleague Letter NSF 16-080 to proposers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to submit proposals that would strengthen research capacity of faculty at the institution. The project at Spelman College aims to use data in the form of eye tracking to study actual migrant remittance decisions in partnership with RemitRight, an online startup company. The project will strengthen research capacity and provide educational opportunities to undergraduate students at Spelman College.

Migrant remittances are a significant driver of global development. Nonetheless, sending remittances remains costly. The creation of publicly available online or mobile comparison databases containing information on the cost, speed, and reliability of sending remittances is one of the most efficient means to increase transparency and reduce transaction costs. This in turn requires such databases to be simple, accessible, and user-friendly. This study will partner with a company that has built and maintains a World Bank-certified metasearch platform for online money transfers, to test behavioral foundations of comparison-shopping. The main novelty of the study is the use of eye tracking to unpack the black box of experimentally elicited and naturally-occurring migrant remittance decisions. In so doing, the study sheds light on the behavioral foundations of search, choice, and information; how neuroeconomic data can be used to improve site customization and online or mobile comparison-shopping; and on the resulting welfare effects that could
accrue to migrants and recipients. From a broader standpoint, the study will also provide evidence for how refined neureconomic data can be used to craft development policy.

This EAGER project is co-funded by the Directorates for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences and Education & Human Resources.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 303.78K | Year: 2015

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) through Targeted Infusion Projects supports the development, implementation, and study of evidence-based innovative models and approaches for improving the preparation and success of HBCU undergraduate students so that they may pursue STEM graduate programs and/or careers. The project at Spelman College seeks to test a novel approach to increase student engagement in STEM fields at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), through development of an introductory biology course intervention centered on a genetics and genealogy (G&G) approach. This personally relevant curriculum is considered key in attracting and retaining minority students. The approach is expected to be more successful than current approaches at: 1) promoting content knowledge learning; 2) generating enthusiasm for science; and 3) increasing scientific literacy with respect to evolutionary theory. This project will have the long-term impact of reducing attrition of underrepresented students from life sciences.

The G&G approach is aimed at stimulating interest in the study of science and the pursuit of a STEM career by priming students with the discovery of unique facts about themselves, their history, and their relatedness to other humans in the world. This project will contribute to the field of STEM education by providing: 1) a new pedagogical model for combining personalization with a discovery-based approach in an interdisciplinary context; 2) a strategy for addressing the truly challenging issue of the low acceptance of evolution among students in a unique way; 3) a STEAM model to meaningfully incorporate visual art and narrative into Biology education; and 4) a model for faculty development and networking through the adoption of a popular social networking site for the same.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 199.57K | Year: 2015

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) Research Initiation Awards (RIAs) provide support to STEM junior faculty at HBCUs who are starting to build a research program, as well as for mid-career faculty who may have returned to the faculty ranks after holding an administrative post or who needs to redirect and rebuild a research program. Faculty members may pursue research at their home institution, at an NSF-funded Center, at a research intensive institution or at a national laboratory. The RIA projects are expected to help further the faculty members research capability and effectiveness, to improve research and teaching at his or her home institution, and to involve undergraduate students in research experiences. With support from the National Science Foundation, Spelman College will conduct research on the movement of genetic material between organisms by means other than reproduction. This project will provide valuable research experience and mentorship for several minority undergraduate females at Spelman College and also during their summers at the University of Rochester. The project has the potential to be a model for increasing the number of minority females pursuing degree programs in STEM by infusing cutting-edge research and research techniques into the Spelman classroom. In addition, the project will help Spelman build its research capacity and enhance the educational and research experiences of their undergraduate females.

The objective of this project is to identify and characterize horizontal gene transfers (HGTs) of bacterial and fungal origin among niche-sharing arthropod species, specifically among blood-feeding and phloem-feeding arthropods. Specifically, this study aims to: Identify HGTs in the genomes of multiple arthropod species that share an ecological niche; and 2) Determine the potential functions, origins, and transfer mechanisms of identified HT genes in their recipient arthropod hosts. The results from Aim 1 would allow for the largest comparison of HGTs in multiple host arthropod species from multiple donor species done to date. The resulting data set obtained will be used to identify patterns in gene function, donor species, transfer mechanisms, and transfer rates using a variety of bioinformatic tools, as well as molecular methods. Findings from this work will allow for a better understanding of the role that HGT plays in generating phenotypic novelty in eukaryotes. The knowledge and information generated by this work will help to address questions surrounding the mechanisms, rates, and roles of HGT in eukaryotes, as well as contribute to work on genome evolution and gene regulation and functionalization. This work will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Rochester and the research will be incorporated into a research-based ecology course.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 160.22K | Year: 2016

The Computer Science for All: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships program aims to provide all U.S. students the opportunity to participate in computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education in their schools at the K-12 levels. This program focuses on researcher-practitioner partnerships (RPPs) that foster the research and development needed to bring CS/CT to all schools. To enhance the strength of researcher-practitioner partnerships, the project will host a workshop that brings together teams of educational researchers, computer scientists, and school and district based educators to build strong partnerships that can advance the knowledge base while addressing problems of practice that will expand CS/CT education for all students in schools.

Working in collaboration with the Research+Practice Collaboratory, the project will host a workshop on January 9-10, 2017 at Spelman College, a top Historically Black College for women. The focus of the workshop is to provide teams of 3-5 participants with a grounding in the design and execution of RPPs. Given the need to broaden participation in CS to underrepresented groups including women, this project will support teams to attend the workshop to expand opportunities for diverse groups to participate in Computer Science for All.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Chemical Measurement & Imaging | Award Amount: 319.45K | Year: 2016

With support from the Chemical Measurement and Imaging Program in the Division of Chemistry, Professor Chen at Spelman College is working with undergraduate students to develop and investigate a new laser spectroscopic technique that was invented at Spelman. This new three-dimensional spectroscopy method can overcome problems and limitations of other existing forms of spectroscopy in the study of the properties and behavior of molecules in chemistry. Specifically in this project, Professor Chen works closely with his students to 1) further develop theory and software for spectral interpretation; 2) demonstrate the study of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as the sample molecule using this technique; 3) combine the new spectroscopic technique with a high resolution, coherent, two dimensional spectroscopic method to improve the speed of data collection and information extraction; and 4) identify other interesting molecules that could benefit from the enhanced capability of this technique. At Spelman College, one of only two Historically Black Colleges for women in the US, many students in Professor Chens lab are from underrepresented minority groups. With this project, he provides them with a stimulating undergraduate research experience that encourages and better prepares them to pursue graduate school.

High resolution molecular spectroscopy is a mature technique with a long record of providing detailed information about molecular structure and behavior. However, many molecules have stubbornly resisted analysis because the spectra they produce are too heavily congested, perturbed, complex, and patternless. Furthermore, analytical applications of high resolution molecular spectroscopy are limited by difficulty in interpreting spectra when the sample is a mixture. The purpose of the project is to develop and explore the capabilities of High Resolution Coherent Three Dimensional (HRC3D) spectroscopy as a method for overcoming these limitations. In conjunction with a recently developed High Resolution Coherent Two Dimensional (HRC2D) technique, which has complimentary capabilities, these two tools provide an alternative method for studying polyatomic molecules (such as NO2) in systems that cannot be studied using existing methods.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CENTERS FOR RSCH EXCELL IN S&T | Award Amount: 92.35K | Year: 2016

Morehouse and Spelman Colleges will plan and design a collaborative center in Socially Relevant Computing. The center will provide interdisciplinary education, research, and workforce development for African American undergraduate computer science students, particularly those who are at risk for degree completion. In addition, the center will create an ecosystem of partners to conduct research that leads to innovations to address critical societal problems of national priority and demonstrated interventions to increase the representation of African Americans in graduate school and the STEM workforce.

The principal investigators will implement the proposed project in multiple stages that include an internal assessment of capability and infrastructure requirements, an external assessment of relevant existing computer science centers for benchmarking, curriculum enhancements, and a pilot education research project to test an evidence-based socially relevant computing intervention concept. The project will help articulate strategies for developing degree pathways to increase persistence in computing for African Americans.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 399.90K | Year: 2016

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) through Targeted Infusion Projects supports the development, implementation, and study of evidence-based innovative models and approaches for improving the preparation and success of HBCU undergraduate students so that they may pursue science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) graduate programs and/or careers. The project at Spelman College and Morehouse College seeks to address the need for skilled data scientists through data science and big data training for faculty and students at both colleges in partnership with the College of Charlestons Data Science program. The activities and strategies are evidence-based and a strong plan for formative and summative evaluation is part of the project.

The project has the specific goals to: train faculty on data science principles that are part of computing fundamentals and infuse the existing curriculum to showcase the data science principles; develop and implement a data science curriculum at the undergraduate level at both institutions; and broaden awareness of data science to students underrepresented in the discipline at the undergraduate level in preparation of graduate studies or corporate positions in data science. Two groups of ten faculty will be trained in data science principles, and these faculty will create, infuse and deliver data science modules to about 500 of their students.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 987.48K | Year: 2016

There has been significant discussion regarding the retention of underrepresented groups in STEM, with the primary focus being on what works to ensure that these individuals successfully transition through each juncture of the STEM pipeline. Additionally, there is a significant body of work characterizing the deficits of students of color who struggle in STEM learning environments, with less focus on their narratives of success. This project seeks to creatively address this gap in the educational research literature by providing empirical data that describes factors that influence minority student success in blended learning environments. It is envisioned that the work will lead to a better understanding of minority female students as agents of their own success and Spelmans learning environment as one which nurtures and encourages such agency. Few studies of this nature have been conducted at minority serving institutions.

Based on prior NSF funding, the PIs successfully merged a community-based element with a blended learning environment in Spelmans general and organic chemistry courses. In the proposed work, they plan to document what is occurring in this learning environment with respect to engagement (metacognitive, cognitive, behavioral, and relational) and affective traits that comprise a students sense of agency (motivation, efficacy, effort, and mindset). The PIs have constructed a solid well-conceived theoretical framework for their investigations. They are taking three different perspectives: agency, metacognition, and Community of Inquiry (CoI) and using them to examine the nature of the self-regulated learning exhibited by the students. Using a mixed methods approach to get information on narratives of success within the environment, the project entails the extraction of data from a well-established and controlled setting at Spelman College. The project has the potential to complement efforts around the country to create curricula and learning environments that transform students, particularly minority women, into effective learners.

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