The Model Institutions for Excellence (MIE) Program Report

The Model Institutions for Excellence (MIE) program, initiated in 1994, is a joint venture between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The program was designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through funding to a select group of minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

The MIE program aims to increase the representation of minorities in STEM by:

  • Targeting a small number of MSIs poised to make a substantial contribution to increasing the number of minorities who earn STEM baccalaureate degrees and then enroll in STEM graduate programs or enter STEM careers;
  • Improving STEM education and undergraduate research at the selected MSIs; and
  • Enabling successful projects to serve as models for the recruitment, education and production of quality-trained STEM baccalaureate degree recipients.

In 1994, 69 MSIs were invited to submit MIE planning proposals. Fifty-seven MSIs submitted proposals and 20 were funded to develop implementation proposals. Six projects (one of which is a consortium of three colleges) received long-term funding for infrastructure development in STEM education and individual support to recruit and retain minority STEM students. The six MIE projects include:

  1. Universidad Metropolitana in Puerto Rico;
  2. Xavier University of Louisiana;
  3. University of Texas at El Paso;
  4. the Oyate Consortium (composed of Oglala Lakota College, Sitting Bull College and Sisseton-Wahpeton College located in South and North Dakota);
  5. Spelman College in Georgia; and
  6. Bowie State University in Maryland.

Xavier University, Universidad Metropolitana, University of Texas at El Paso and the Oyate Consortium are funded by the National Science Foundation. Spelman College and Bowie State University are funded by NASA.

Highlights from the Study
With one exception, from 1997-98 to 2003-04, STEM enrollment tended to increase faster than overall institutional enrollment at each MIE institution. (At Universidad Metropolitana, the enrollment more than doubled during the period, from 3,294 to 7,499 students (a 128-percentage point increase) and although STEM enrollment also more than doubled, it did not quite keep pace with the total.)

With one exception, from 1997-98 to 2002-03, the number of undergraduate STEM degrees conferred and the proportion of all degrees awarded that were in STEM fields increased considerably in all MIE institutions.

STEM degrees awarded tended to increase faster in the MIEs than they did overall in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs), and in the group of non-funded MIE applicants.

There appears to be one MIE model with seven essential components: recruitment and transition initiatives, student support, undergraduate research, faculty development, curriculum development, physical infrastructure development, and STEM graduate school and employment initiatives. Although each project looked somewhat different, student support (including social, financial, and academic assistance) received significant emphasis across all projects. Infrastructure enhancements included improvement or development of classrooms, laboratories, and specific areas in which students could study and work; purchases of state-of-the-art computing and laboratory equipment; hiring of over 100 new STEM faculty; curriculum enhancements at every project; and new STEM degree programs established at many. Undergraduate research opportunities were available both on- and off-campus, anchoring the students’ motivation and persistence in STEM.

The study suggests that the MIE model is readily transportable, but that it must be aligned to the context and culture of the institution.