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Pa.’s Shapiro, Lee Help Launch $150M Partnership to Improve Access to STEM Education

Credit: iStock

by Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star

PITTSBURGH —  Gov. Josh Shapiro and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, will visit Carnegie Mellon University on Thursday to help launch a $150 million partnership with the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation, aimed at helping improve access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduate education for students from underrepresented communities.

The CMU Rales Fellows program is designed to address what the foundation calls the “missing millions” — people who have faced obstacles to careers in STEM fields— by removing cost as a  barrier to masters’ and Ph.D. programs for students from underrepresented groups, including first-generation students. 

The first cohort of students will enroll in fall 2024, and the program is expected to underwrite 86 students each year, providing tuition-free graduate education and support services, including mentoring and career development. 

The Rales Foundation has committed $116 million to the program, which includes a $110 million endowment and $6 million in startup funds, with CMU making a $34 million investment.

“Expanding access to a graduate STEM education will bring to the table new voices and diverse talent, which will drive the innovations and breakthroughs for our nation’s and our world’s future,”  Joshua B. Rales, president of the Rales Foundation said in a statement

According to the National Science Board’s Vision 2030 report released in 2020, the supply of domestic STEM talent won’t meet the increasing demand; by 2026, the report predicts that science and education jobs will grow by 13%, compared to only 7% growth in the U.S. workforce.

“As the first Black woman to represent [Pennsylvania] in Congress, I joined the Science, Space, and Technology Committee to working to deliver funding for Pittsburgh innovation, bring research dollars back to Western [Pennsylvania’s] institutions, and crucially — break down barriers to Black, brown, working class, and marginalized folks we so badly need represented in STEM fields,” Lee said in a statement. 

“Pittsburgh’s future as [an] innovation hub depends on our work closing the representation gap and making quality STEM education, and training accessible for all,” she continued.

The Rales Foundation was established in 1986 by Norman and Ruth Rales, who were both children of immigrants, with the goal of creating opportunities for people in need. 

“This initiative aligns perfectly with the creative vision of our beloved parents, Norman and Ruth, who deeply believed in extending a helping hand to others and keeping alive the American spirit of generosity and possibility,” Joshua Rales said. 

This story was written by Kim Lyons, a reporter at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.