Simons Foundation Partners with Stony Brook University to Improve Diversity in STEM
The $56.6 million gift will fund a program to help train the next generation of science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics leaders
On May 11, Stony Brook University announced a major new initiative funded by the Simons
Foundation, and its sister foundation, Simons Foundation International, to vastly
bolster and improve the pathway to STEM careers for underrepresented students at the
University. With the Simons Foundation’s $56.6 million gift, the Stony Brook Simons
STEM Scholars Program will provide scholarships, housing and stipends to 50 new students
each year in the STEM fields.
“We could not be more excited and grateful to enter this new partnership with the
Simons Foundation. The Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program will allow young people
to reach their potential as they bring new, much-needed diversity of perspective to
science and innovation,” says Stony Brook University president Maurie McInnis. “At any given time, we will have 200 future STEM leaders on our campus, forging
their way in the STEM fields and setting the stage for future generations of students
to follow in their footsteps. I cannot wait to welcome our first cohort to Stony Brook
“We need scientists and mathematicians who are reflective of our diverse world, and
the scientific and educational communities must work together to find, train, and
support underrepresented scientists and mathematicians. That’s why the foundation
is making its largest investment yet in diversity through the Stony Brook Simons STEM
Scholars Program. Stony Brook University has shown a real commitment already to access
and opportunity. They’re our ideal partners in this,” says Simons Foundation president David Spergel.
“We’re proud to see the foundation taking steps to increase diversity in STEM fields.
The support network, tight-knit community, and sense of belonging that students will
find in this program will be life-changing. We’re incredibly proud to be part of a
program like this, with positive implications not just for Stony Brook, but for New
York State and the broader scientific and mathematical communities,” say Jim and Marilyn Simons, co-founders and co-chairs of the Simons Foundation.
Launching in Fall 2023, the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program will welcome
50 students each year, with support including:
- Dedicated on-campus housing, where for the first two years of the program, students
will live together in an environment that fosters collaboration and support;
- Internship and research opportunities and stipends, enabling students to pursue extracurricular
learning experiences to supplement their STEM coursework and bolster their graduate
- A Summer Bridge Program for incoming freshmen, where students will acclimate to Stony
Brook and become part of the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholar community before formal
coursework begins, meet the mentors and advisors who will support and guide them and
become acquainted with their peers
In addition, Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars students will receive:
- Four years of scholarship support that will fully cover the educational costs for
each and every student in the program
- Academic and career advising
- Peer and faculty mentoring
- Community-building activities
- Networking opportunities and support
- Stipends for program-related travel and study abroad opportunities
- Alumni support and outreach
- Access to off-campus learning and research opportunities at state-of-the-art research
facilities Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory (a U.S.
Department of Energy national laboratory), both close partners of Stony Brook
“The power of this gift is that it is not dedicated to existing programmatic or budget
needs; rather, it will exclusively support hundreds of Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars
students,” says Justin Fincher, Stony Brook University Vice President for Advancement. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such a generous philanthropic partner in the
Simons Foundation that understands the strength of that kind of support and is deeply
committed to building this program alongside our team.”
SUNY Board Trustee Cary F. Staller says, “We are extremely grateful to Simons Foundation President David Spergel for
this extraordinary partnership with Stony Brook University. President Spergel’s collaboration
with Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis will establish a program to educate
underrepresented scientists and mathematicians that will set a new standard of excellence
and resonate throughout higher education.”
There is a major need for programs like the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program
to address the lack of diversity in STEM fields. STEM careers have seen a 79 percent growth in employment in the past 30 years, making STEM one of the fastest growing segments
of the U.S. workforce. Yet Black and Hispanic workers only make up 17 percent of the
U.S. STEM workforce, compared to 28 percent of the total workforce. Only 12 percent of full-time faculty at PhD-granting institutions are Black or Hispanic, a disparity
that also exists in STEM higher education programs.
Underrepresented college and university students are much more likely to switch from
a STEM major to another course of study than their peers. Forty percent of Black STEM students switch their major during their undergraduate years, compared
to 29 percent of white STEM students, and Black STEM students are also twice as likely
as their white peers to leave college without a degree. Just 7 percent of all STEM
Bachelor’s degrees were awarded to Black students in 2018.
This $56.6 million gift is the Simons Foundation’s largest gift under new president
David Spergel’s leadership, building on the foundation’s commitment to improving diversity
in STEM education and the STEM workforce.
Since 2004, the foundation has given more than $200 million to Math for America, a
nonprofit organization that builds communities of accomplished math and science teachers.
Its New York City fellowship program represents nearly 10 percent of the city’s STEM
teaching population. The organization had its most diverse incoming cohort in history
in 2021 with more than 50 percent teachers of color. The foundation also made a $4 million gift to CUNY Graduate Center to diversify astrophysics education.
The Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars program is modeled after the renowned University
of Maryland, Baltimore County's (UMBC) Meyerhoff Scholars Program. For more information
about the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program, visit www.stonybrook.edu/simonsscholars.
About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University, a flagship of the State University of New York (SUNY) system,
is going far beyond the expectations of today’s public universities. With nearly 27,000
students, 2,800 faculty members, more than 200,000 alumni, a premier academic medical
center and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs, Stony Brook is a research-intensive
distinguished center of innovation dedicated to addressing the world’s biggest challenges.
The university embraces its mission to provide comprehensive undergraduate, graduate
and professional education of the highest quality, and has been ranked 23rd among
top public universities by Forbes and 38th among public universities in the U.S. News
& World Report Best Colleges listing. Fostering a commitment to academic research
and intellectual endeavors, Stony Brook’s membership in the Association of American
Universities (AAU) places it among the top 65 research institutions in North America.
The university’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel
Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and
the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. Stony Brook has the responsibility
of co-managing Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy —
one of only eight universities with a role in running a national laboratory. Providing
economic growth for neighboring communities and the wider geographic region, the university
totals an impressive $7.23 billion in increased economic output on Long Island. Follow
us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/stonybrooku/) and Twitter (@stonybrooku).