I was part of the WiscAMP program in the summer of 2010. I took classes that developed my skills in math, science, and writing. We also went on field trips that exposed us to the current world of modern science.
My favorite trip was to Troy Gardens, a community garden where people around the neighborhood grow their own food and also find profit through their community farm. In this program, I met individuals like myself. We wondered if we’d chosen the right major, we took challenging science classes together, and we constantly tried to prove ourselves. Being surrounded by so many motivated students and helpful faculty who understood what it is like to be a minority within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields allowed me to feel like I belonged. Today, I find myself within the field of civil engineering continuing to strive for my degree.
Dr. Douglass Henderson, UW-Madison alumni and Professor of Engineering Physics in the College of Engineering, helped integrate a mentoring space for undergraduate students. He and other faculty at the College of Engineering were successful in securing funding from the National Science Foundation and established WiscAMP, a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation at UW-Madison. This program provides educational opportunities for students interested in STEM fields.
Dr. Henderson also established the Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) program. It is a graduate fellowship program that offers a support network for students and increases the number of underrepresented graduate students. In 2009, President Obama also honored Dr. Henderson with the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), the highest federal award for mentoring in the country.
When it started in 1998, the GERS program served just three underrepresented minority Ph.D. students in the College of Engineering. Currently, there are 51. Over the past decade, 46 Ph.D. students have graduated from the program – up from just 17 graduates in the previous nine years.
Recently, Dr. Henderson was one of 5 winners of the annual University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents’ Diversity Awards. This award recognizes and supports those who foster access and success within the university for historically underrepresented populations.