Graduate School MSI Partnership Program grants to support collaborative exchange between UW–Madison and Minority Serving Institutions

Four initiatives have received grants through a new Graduate School program established to nurture relationships between faculty, staff and students at UW–Madison and at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) across the U.S.

The MSI Partnership Program* funded by the Graduate School provides grants of up to $25,000 for graduate programs, departments and other collaborative groups to establish and extend partner relationships with Department of Education designated MSIs. The program focuses on creating long-term and mutually beneficial relationships in areas such as research collaborations, faculty professional development, creation of collaborative activities, and exchange programs for faculty, staff and students.

“The awardees of these grants already have existing relationships with partners at Minority Serving Institutions. This financial support will allow them to continue building upon their past successes and deepen their connections,” said Graduate School Dean William Karpus. “In addition, grant awardees will be able to leverage these relationships to recruit and enroll graduate students from partnering institutions in the future.”

The following teams have been awarded grants through the MSI Partnership Program in its inaugural year.

Department of Mechanical Engineering partnership with Fort Lewis College (Durango, Colorado)

UW–Madison alumnus William Nollet, now chair of the physics department at Fort Lewis College, has returned to Madison over the last few years to give talks to the Graduate Engineering Research Scholars community, of which he was a part during his time on campus. In addition to this connection, the Department of Mechanical Engineering recently collaborated on a Department of Energy proposal through the Office of Nuclear Energy that includes UW–Madison and Fort Lewis College as partners.

This project will fund UW–Madison faculty and graduate students to visit Fort Lewis College to encourage undergraduates to consider UW–Madison for graduate school and inform them about funding and research opportunities. In addition, the project seeks to foster collaborative research proposals and organize Fort Lewis College faculty visits for summer research.

UW­–Madison partners: Mark Anderson, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering; Greg Nellis, William A. and Irene Ouweneel-Bascom Professor, Mechanical Engineering; Doug Reindl, Professor, Mechanical Engineering; Mike Wagner, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering; Paul Brooks, Instrument Technician, Engineering Physics.

Fort Lewis College partners: William Nollet, Chair, Physics Department.

Laboratory of Genetics partnership with the Xavier University of Louisiana Department of Biology (New Orleans, Louisiana)

The Laboratory of Genetics has a newly established partnership with the Department of Biology at Xavier University of Louisiana, which aims to form relationships between faculty, staff and students at both institutions, fund cross-institution visits for faculty and students, and fund Xavier University undergraduates to participate in a Summer Research Opportunity Program in the Laboratory of Genetics. Faculty in Genetics also plan to make annual visits to the Xavier University campus to engage with faculty and staff to strengthen support for students from historically underserved groups in STEM

With the grant funding, this project plans to support faculty and graduate student visits to Xavier University annually, host a Xavier University faculty member each year who would present an invited seminar in genetics, and empower historically underserved undergraduate students to attend UW–Madison for summer research.

UW–Madison partners: Francisco Pelegri, Professor and Chair, Genetics; Ahna Skop, Professor, Genetics; Amber Smith, Director, Biological Interactions Student Research Opportunity Program; Audrey Gasch, Professor, Medical Genetics; Bret Payseur, Professor and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Chair, Genetics.

Xavier University of Louisiana partners: Michelle Boissiere, Chair, Department of Biology.

Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics partnership with Tennessee State University-Nashville (Nashville, Tennessee)

Previously, UW–Madison professor Yiqun Weng and Tennessee State University-Nashville associate professor Korsi Dumenyo have collaborated on research around the genetics and molecular mechanisms of host resistance and pathogenesis. This project seeks to expand the collaboration to include further expertise in plant pathology (with UW–Madison professor Caitilyn Allen) and plant genetics and breeding (with Tennessee State University associate professor Ali Taheri). The goal of this project is to strengthen and leverage this existing relationship to develop new collaborations in plant-pathogen interaction research and beyond, while also developing an effective platform for graduate and undergraduate student training.

The initiative will fund undergraduate students from Tennessee State University to participate in research training opportunities and learn the “hidden curriculum” of graduate education in STEM. The funding will also support visits between principal investigators and graduate students to network and further collaborate on research.

UW–Madison partners: Yiqun Weng, Professor, Horticulture; Caitilyn Allen, Professor, Plant Pathology; Amanda Gevens, Professor and Chair, Plant Pathology; Patrick Krysan, Professor and Chair, Horticulture; Claudia Calderon, Teaching Faculty and Horticulture Equity and Diversity Committee Chair.

Tennessee State University partners: C. Korsi Dumenyo, Associate Professor, Plant Pathology; Ali Taheri, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Samuel Nahashon, Research Professor and Chair, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Bharat Pokharel, Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Everett Jolley, Director of Dean’s Scholars Program, College of Agriculture.

Soil Science partnership with the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (Mayagüez, Puerto Rico)

UW–Madison associate professor Francisco Arriaga is an alumnus of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez and has maintained individual relationships with its faculty, including associate professor Mario Flores-Mangual, who earned a PhD in Soil Science at UW–Madison. The departments at each university have long held interest in establishing a more formal relationship to facilitate the exchange of students and knowledge.

This project seeks to establish week-long, field-based classes in Wisconsin and Puerto Rico, where students will be able to elucidate differences between ecosystems in both locations. Students will also interact with individuals at the partner institution to learn how cultural differences inform ecosystem management.

UW­–Madison partners: Francisco Arriaga, Associate Professor, Soil Science; Geoff Siemering, Outreach Specialist, Soil Science; Doug Soldat, Professor, Soil Science; Zac Freedman, Assistant Professor, Soil Science.

University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez partners: Mario Flores-Mangual, Associate Professor, Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences; Rebecca Tirado-Corbalá, Researcher, Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences; Miguel Muñoz, Professor, Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences.

*Editor’s note: As of 2023, the MSI Partnership Program’s new name is the Partnership Program in Graduate Excellence (PPGE).