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Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College Office of Strategic Initiatives

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. See the organization’s website for its latest information.

Established in 2001, the Louisiana State University (LSU) Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) has contributed substantially towards the success of underrepresented students (especially African-American and Latino students) in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). OSI has leveraged several campus-wide activities into a composite mentoring approach that nurtures students in an interdisciplinary environment providing direct support from the K-12 level, to the community college pre- and post-transfer level, and comprehensive attention at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The OSI program model is based on a mentoring ladder that is both hierarchical and holistic-hierarchical in that high school, undergraduate, and graduate students receive structured attention as they move up the ladder toward completing university degree requirements, and holistic in that students receive mentoring from faculty, researchers, and graduate students and, in turn, learn to mentor other students within the mentoring ladder. The hierarchical-holistic mentoring model permeates the university's education
and research activities, enabling students to develop a strong sense of community as they absorb the fundamental principles of mentoring, and engage in research-connected learning through classes and interactions with their peers, graduate students, high school students, program staff, and faculty.

Since 2001, the university's OSI has mentored 492 undergraduate students of whom 60 percent are minority students underrepresented in STEM-with 323 students graduating with a STEM baccalaureate degree. The OSI program has developed four undergraduate courses designed to provide research and leadership training needed to best guide students' metacognitive professional development as they transition from one semester to the next. As part of this coursework, each student must develop an individual development plan for navigating their undergraduate journey.

At the graduate level, the OSI has supported and mentored 137 STEM Ph.D. students since 2001 of whom 84 percent are minority students. Prior to the OSI program, the minority STEM Ph.D. student population had leveled off to a critical mass of approximately 40 students (of whom 70 percent were students in the chemistry department). As a result of OSI support, the university was able to expand the success in chemistry to other departments and divisions, and over several years doubled its minority STEM doctoral student population to nearly 80 students. This increase has been sustained over multiple years. In the last two academic years (2009-2010 and 2011-2012), the university realized the largest number of minority Ph.D. graduates (33 completed doctoral programs) in the institution's history.

OSl's undergraduates and graduates have gone forward with graduate work and postdoctoral positions at prestigious institutions across the country, including William Marsh, Rice University, Brown University, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan.