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The Model Institution for Excellence (MIE)

The Model Institution for Excellence (MIE) Project started in 1995 funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The institution was transformed with activities centered on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) majors. The scholarship program produced a superior retention and graduation rate among UMET/MIE scholars, seventy-two percent of students graduated in the 1997-98 cohort. The Undergraduate Research Program offered UMET/STEM majors unique opportunities for summer research experiences at research centers in US research institutions and centers around the world. The Bridge to Graduate School program consolidated entrances to graduate programs to more than eighty-five UMET/STEM graduates. The Symposia agenda for pre-college and for undergraduate students were solid training ground for future scientists at UMET. The Institute of Atmospheric Sciences expanded the search for qualified students interested in the Atmospheric Science fields. The Pre-College agenda with the Saturday Academy and the Summer Adventure Research Training (SART) were models that produced 100% transfers to college. These programs administered by the MIE staff and the PI were essential for the success of future generations of professionals and scientists.

The MIE experience was a remarkable success, transforming the institution from a marginal teaching-oriented community before 1995 into an undergraduate/teaching research organization in 2005. This transformation gave UMET several insights in the search for optimizing the successes of talented underrepresented, economically disadvantaged Puerto Ricans interested in pursuing careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The frontier of new knowledge was achieved by offering more than five hundred students new opportunities to experience research training in the hands of outstanding mentors in the US mainland and abroad. The research experiences for pre-college students were successfully implemented in the Saturday Academy and Summer Adventure Research Training impacting more than 2,000 students from grades 10, 11 and 12.

The implementation of summer opportunities opened the door for students to master their English skills and advance in their preparation for graduate school. The Undergraduate Research Symposium was a forum that gave the MIE program the opportunity to bring to Puerto Rico outstanding scientists in new scientific disciplines including, nanotechnology, biotechnology, computational biology and computational chemistry, impacting not only UMET students, but the entire undergraduate establishment of Puerto Rico. The success of building an effective bridge program to graduate school is an indication that the support that minority students need for success goes beyond their local communities.

The MIE experience was successful at UMET because it focused its attention on building student performance by providing a continuous flow of new ideas through interactions with scientists at the Friday MIE meetings, Fulbright visiting scholar series, summer experiences, conference attendance and peer to peer initiative locally and nationally. The constant supervision, guidance and commitment of MIE staff has been essential to the overall success of this unique experience. The idea of a Student Development Center at AGMUS is to continue in the path of innovation in scientific discovery, knowledge transfer and consolidation of the pipeline in STEM fields for young Puerto Ricans in the next decades.