The University of Alabama (UA) has announced a new bridge program for students from Stillman College, Fort Valley State University, and Jackson State University (JSU) who are interested in renewable energy.

UA was awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the program that will prepare undergraduate students for graduate programs, industry careers, and entrepreneurial opportunities in renewable energy. The five-year project was awarded through the NSF’s Bridging Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, Communities, also known as RII-BEC.

“RII-BEC is a very prestigious award that will empower us with lots of research and education resources in the next five years to enhance students’ learning and research experience,” said UA professor of chemistry and project principal investigator, Dr. Shanlin Pan.

Program participants will receive mentoring and training in UA’s state-of-the-art research facilities

The goals for the program include enhancing the competitiveness of HBCU student participants as applicants to graduate programs, preparing participants for the STEM workforce through hands-on lab experiences that were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, and providing students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to be successful in a STEM career.

The university says that the program activities will take place through resident summer programs at UA as well as student exchanges between UA and Stillman students during the academic year.

“Participants will receive outstanding hands-on lab training and be engaged in summer research activities related to clean energy and materials science

– Dr. Shanlin Pan

According to Pan students will also have access to the university’s “state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities” This well help to build “more than sufficient knowledge and skills for future graduate school study and the energy industry” Pan added.

The program will sponsor nine undergrads from the three HBCUs each summer of the five-year project by providing stipends, on-campus housing, and travel expenses.

According to the university, it is estimated that 70 Stillman students will participate in exchange activities each year during the fall and spring semesters.

In May, Stillman College and the University of Alabama renewed a 50-year-old concurrent enrollment agreement.

“This NSF award represents a significant accomplishment for UA,” said Dr. Emmett Lodree, director of the UA Graduate School’s Strategic Graduate Partnerships. “It really moves the needle forward with regard to UA’s strategic efforts to cultivate partnerships with bachelor’s and/or minority-serving institutions, particularly HBCUs in the southeast.”

“Recently, the Graduate School launched its Strategic Graduate Partnerships Initiative to coordinate these efforts and has since facilitated the renewal of a 50-year-old institutional agreement with Stillman College. This award further solidifies the institutional agreement between UA and Stillman and represents a promising future of mutually beneficial collaboration between the two institutions. The NSF award also enriches UA’s relationships with Fort Valley State University and Jackson State University.”