Carnegie Mellon Announces $150M Fellowship for Underrepresented Grad STEM Students

Carnegie Mellon University will partner with the Rales Foundation to launch a fellowship for underrepresented graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
1 min read

Share this Article

  • The CMU Rales Fellows Program will address the "missing millions," people whose circumstances have created obstacles for careers in STEM.
  • The program will enroll its first cohort in fall 2024 and expects 86 graduate students per cohort per year.
  • Carnegie Mellon found that loans and costs are the primary reasons underrepresented groups do not pursue graduate education.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation have announced a $150 million initiative designed to tear down barriers to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for underrepresented students.

The CMU Rales Fellows Program will focus on what the institutions refer to as "missing millions" — Americans whose circumstances have presented a significant obstacle to STEM careers.

The fellows program will provide master's and Ph.D. students from under-resourced and underrepresented backgrounds with full tuition, housing, health insurance, and a living expenses stipend.

Norman and Ruth Rales, two children of immigrants, established a family foundation in 1986 to create opportunities for people facing challenges similar to those their families once faced.

The foundation will provide $110 million for the fellowship, with CMU chipping in another $30 million. The two organizations are also creating an additional joint fund of $10 million to support the program in its early years.

The university's first cohort will enroll in fall 2024 with a projected size of 86 graduate students per cohort each year. Qualifying students include first-generation college students, minority-serving institution graduates, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and other underrepresented groups in STEM.

The program will include dedicated career services, faculty mentoring, networking, and global and local leadership-building opportunities. The eligible graduate programs are in engineering, science, computer science, the humanities and social sciences, and neuroscience.

CMU said the program will eventually be open to all graduate STEM programs.

"Addressing the challenges of our modern world will require the concerted efforts of a highly talented pool of STEM trailblazers who can bring a diversity of ideas and experiences to engender solutions," said CMU President Farnam Jahanian. "At the heart of the CMU Rales Fellows Program is a commitment to remove existing barriers and empower this next generation of domestic talent so they can apply their skills and ingenuity to realize new scientific and technological breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity."

According to data from the National Science Foundation, in 2021, unemployment rates for Black STEM workers (6.6%) and Hispanic STEM workers (5.7%) were higher than for white STEM workers (2.9%) and Asian STEM workers (2.3%).

CMU's analysis found that underrepresented groups say the reasons they do not pursue graduate education are because of cost and undergraduate debt. According to the Council of Graduate Schools, the average unpaid loan was 65% higher for first-generation students at $34,243 versus $20,699.

"In order to foster more inclusive leadership in STEM, we must acknowledge both the strengths of under-resourced and underrepresented students and the barriers that stand in the way of their success in graduate STEM education," said Mary Schmidt Campbell, president emerita of Spelman College.

CMU is also partnering with the Ron Brown Scholar Program to identify and work with candidates for the fellows program.

"In addition to tuition assistance, and other academic support services, they need an environment that acknowledges those assets and affirmatively builds on them to create students who emerge as leaders in their respective fields," said Campbell.