Supporting Minority Students at Alabama A & M University
Biological and Environmental Sciences Alabama A & M University
Alabama A&M University (AAMU), a historically black college and university (HBCU), is located in the highly advanced technological center of Huntsville, Alabama. AAMU has four Ph.D. programs in plant and soil science, food science, reading and physics. The current enrollment is 4,055 undergraduate students of which 95% is African-American, 2.8% Caucasian and 0.9% Hispanic. The undergraduate composition of the College of Agricultural, Life, and Natural Sciences (CALNS), which houses the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences (BES), is 91% African-Americans, 6.2% Caucasian and 1.5% Hispanics. The Department has three distinct majors i.e., environmental science, biology and forestry. The Department of BES has been ranked as the nation's #1 institution in the U.S. for granting African American Ph.D.'s in the agricultural sciences. Over the past decade over 50 Ph.D.'s and 120 M.S. graduates have matriculated in the environmental and natural resource-based graduate program, by far the largest at an HBCU and the only doctoral granting program among the HBCUs in the plant and soil sciences.
Keys to Success
- The Department has a strong relationship with University's Office of Admissions and the North Alabama Center for Educational Excellence.
- The Department creates an environment that nurtures and believes in students' ability to succeed in academics and life as well.
- The Department strongly encourages and aids students in pursuing research and internship opportunities.
Attracting New Students
The Department has a long history of working with NACEE- North Alabama Center for Educational Excellence. NACEE is instrumental for aiding in the recruitment of area high school students for various programs such as EnvironMentors where the students are a part of a year-long mentoring program in which they work in labs with different professors, for a Remote Sensing/GIS Summer Program and for the residential Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program (REU) where we included two high school students each year. There are also opportunities such as Science Exploration Day-where high schools throughout the state of Alabama are brought to campus by the College of Agriculture, Life and Natural Sciences and introduced to all departments and majors through mini workshops. Additionally we have relationships with Drake State Technical College-our sister community college as well as other community colleges throughout Alabama. Faculty members often travel with the Office of Admissions on recruiting trips where we can promote initiatives such as the BES Scholars Program, Bi-weekly work opportunities as well as many other avenues that could help support them financially.
Supporting Our Majors
The Environmental Science program is a very nurturing program with a wholelistic approach to student well being. Faculty members have an open door policy and are always willing to guide and offer advice in academics and other issues that they may have. This focus on mentoring is highlighted through the National Science Foundation's Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) program where both faculty and upperclassmen students mentor new students to ensure seamless transition through the major. The URM program provides a $1200/year fellowship to those who are selected however other students are encouraged to apply for bi-weekly opportunities to supplement expenses.
The students are encouraged to participate and volunteer with the Environmental Science Club so that they can interact with their peers outside of the classroom, which has proven to be an asset in the successful matriculation through AAMU.
Lastly, if there are deficiencies after taking the college entrance exams, the University requires them to take developmental courses in math, English and reading in order to become better prepared. Additionally, all environmental science students are required to take Introduction to Environmental Science Soil Science and GIS, which prepares them for more demanding courses such as environmental toxicology, hydrology, remote sensing and geostatistics.
Preparing Students for Careers
Incoming undergraduate majors are encouraged to work in various, water quality, GIS, and soils labs throughout the Department. These opportunities will allow the students to become proficient with advanced technologies and apply them to scientific problems. Practical exposure to environmental issues through experiential learning is an important component to the success of the students for years to come. With the aid of mentors/advisors, students will then seek domestic and international experiential learning opportunities sponsored through AAMU (the National Science Foundation sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) programs, REU-China, and Experiential learning opportunities in Ghana and Brazil), as well as various other internships at universities and agencies to gain practical skills.