About The College

The University of South Florida Sloan University Center of Exemplary Mentoring

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation renews the University OF South Florida's University Center of Exemplary Mentoring
The University of South Florida is celebrating a significant achievement with the renewal of its University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) grant to the College of Engineering and the College of Marine Science by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Managed by the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), the award provides an additional $630,000 over the next three years for a total of nearly $4 million from the Sloan Foundation to USF in support of minority doctoral education since 2005. USF is the only university in Florida to receive this distinction, and the only non-AAU institution, joining Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, MIT, UC-San Diego, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Iowa. 

kiesha pierre

Current Scholar: Kiesha Pierre, PhD Candidate and AAUW Dissertation Fellow, Environmental Engineering 

“The Sloan program hosted a myriad of workshops that provided professional and personal development. The end of semester socials provided me a sense of community. I am grateful to my advisor, Dr. Andres Tejada-Martinez, and the Sloan UCEM for their roles in helping me to successfully navigate this doctoral journey.”

michelle guitard

Current Scholar: Michelle Guitard, Ph.D. Candidate, Geological Oceanography, College of Marine Science 

“The support I have received from my Sloan cohort and program directors has been helpful in navigating a research environment. There were issues I encountered as a member of an underrepresented group in STEM that I never anticipated, but I often found the answers within the Sloan community. Feeling supported, as a student and as a person goes a long way in retaining underrepresented STEM scholars. I feel very lucky to have found that in Sloan.”

nekesha williams

Alumni: Nekesha Williams, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Earth and Environmental Science, Saint Mary's College, California 

“I can state emphatically that without this program [Sloan], I would not have been prepared for my current position.  Specifically, the financial support provided through this program allowed me to simply be a student and fully immerse myself in my studies and research without having to worry about my livelihood.  The travel funding for conferences conference/ and meetings enabled me to promote my science as well as gain the knowledge necessary to prepare for a career in academia.”  

deidra hodges

Alumni: Deidra Hodges, PhD ’09,  Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Texas El Paso 

“At the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), I continue the solar cell research started during my dissertation and credit USF, the Sloan Minority PhD program, the Florida Education Fund (FEF) McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, and the Department of Energy (DOE) for my success.  Continued support from my mentors at USF and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant will enable me to apply for and receive larger grants to advance my research and career endeavors.”

The UCEM grant will continue under the direction of Jose Zayas-Castro, Professor and Executive Associate Dean in the College of Engineering; Frank Muller-Karger, Professor of Biological Oceanography in the College of Marine Science; and will be managed by Bernard Batson, Director of Diversity Programs at the College of Engineering. An expanded Faculty Coordinating Committee from both Colleges will guide the programmatic activities. Additional leadership and advocacy will be provided by Dean Robert H. Bishop of the College of Engineering, Dean Jacqueline Dixon of the College of Marine Science, and the USF Office of Graduate Studies (OGS).

"Over the past four years, USF faculty have received $4 million in research grants from the Sloan Foundation and NSF to maintain our momentum in fostering greater diversity in STEM doctoral programs," said Zayas-Castro, principal investigator of the UCEM award.
"We envision the Center will help institutionalize these gains, while catalyzing new faculty mentoring and graduate student success initiatives for the entire University.

Co-Principal Investigator Muller-Karger said, "The UCEM grant prepares minority students into scientific leaders. They will be prepared to address the many challenges our country faces in dealing with living and non-living marine resources. They will measure life in the ocean, and study the physics, chemistry and geology of the sea. Ultimately, the UCEM is important to help our university and the science workforce be more diverse and look like our communities."

After a competitive review process, the Sloan Foundation awarded the UCEM renewal. They examined the USF record of accomplishment. USF graduates nearly 90 percent of Sloan minority doctoral scholars in engineering and marine science. The University is committed to making the institutional changes that support both graduate student and faculty diversity in all STEM graduate departments. Key metrics will include doctoral student recruitment, faculty outreach to minority serving institutions, implementation of a multi-dimensional mentoring model (MDM) for scholars, a new professional development certificate program to help PhD students develop "soft skills" for diverse career paths, and increased fundraising initiatives to ensure sustainability of the UCEM.

Leadership Team

PI: Jose Zayas-Castro, Ph.D., Professor and Executive Associate Dean, College of Engineering  Co-PI: Frank Muller-Karger, Ph.D., Professor, College of Marine Science 
Program Director: David Naar, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, College of Marine Science
Program Director: Ana Arellano, Ph.D., Diversity Director and Instructor, College of Marine Science 
Program Manager: Mr. Bernard Batson, Director, Diversity Programs, College of Engineering 

Steering Committee

Sanjukta Bhanja, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Associate Dean for Academics and Student Affairs  
Robert Frisina, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Engineering  
James Mihelcic, Ph.D., Samuel L. and Julia M. Flom Endowed Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering  
Sarina Ergas, Ph.D., Professor and Program and Graduate Program Coordinator, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering  
Yu Sun, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Graduate Studies