Dr. Lorraine Fleming’s 27-year career as a scientist, department chair, and university mentor has been one of accomplishment, and her achievements are nowhere better illustrated than through her establishment of two signature programs:
• The Howard University Science, Engineering and Mathematics (HUSEM) Center for Education and Research that offers mentoring programs and conducts rigorous research in STEM education. Under her leadership, the center has attracted more than $8 million of continuous funding from the National Science Foundation, Intel, Google, Semiconductor Research Corporation, and others.
• The Global Education, Awareness and Research Undergraduate Program (GEAR-UP) which prepares undergraduates for global scientific engagement and provides access to global research opportunities for her mentees.
The HUSEM mentoring experience begins prior to the freshman year with the summer precollege program, continues throughout the undergraduate years and, for some, into graduate school and career life. The emphasis is on creating a social and intellectual network, building students’ confidence and skills in math and science, and training “peer mentors” as tutors and advisors.
During students’ junior and senior years, the HUSEM program focuses the mentorship experience on research. To this end, students spend time conducting research within a faculty member’s STEM research team and laboratory. To facilitate this process, Dr. Fleming identifies and trains, as needed, faculty colleagues to serve as research mentors.
The HUSEM program has mentored 186 science and engineering students in ten different majors. The 4-year graduation rate for HUSEM students is 46% and the five-year graduation rate is 71% for these students. Both rates far exceed the national four-and-five year graduation rates for African-Americans in STEM.
The objective of GEAR-UP is to provide Howard students with an academically rigorous international environment and interactions with a select group of STEM students from the best technical universities around the world, with close mentoring by Dr. Fleming. Dr. Fleming has established international partnerships with eight institutions, and is developing relationships with five other institutions to host Howard students.
GEAR-UP mentored students have fanned out across the globe to study a range of engineering and science topics, including human-computer interface in the Philippines, online denial-of-service attacks in Chile, transportation and flood control in Indonesia, wind power in rural Ethiopian villages, and water recycling in Kenya.
Dr. Fleming has mentored 36 African-American STEM students through her international program. This is a significant number given that African-American students are the group least likely to engage in international learning and research experiences.
In addition to this work, Dr. Fleming currently mentors 106 8th grade students from low and moderate income households in Montgomery County, Maryland. Her Saturday STEM Academy is an annual, five-week program where the students interact with Howard University undergraduates and local community college students.
The Howard University and community college students learn the value and benefit of giving back to the younger students—thus preparing them to be the next generation of mentors. This exposure to college students and an engineering professor who teaches them, gives the young students a first-hand look at the college experience and exposure to STEM career options.