The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) received a $7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to become a center of thought leadership for Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) throughout the country, according to a UTEP news release.

“As America’s leading Hispanic-serving university, we look forward to expanding the impact UTEP has on Hispanic student success across the country,” said UTEP president Heather Wilson in the news release.

The six-year Network Opportunities for Developing Equitable and Effective Evaluation at HSIs (NODE) grant aims to help various institutions build the capacity to evaluate and research ways to evaluate and boost the success of NSF HIS-funded projects.

According to UTEP, a disproportionate number of students at HSIs graduate with degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) compared with other institutions of higher education. But because HSIs have historically been underfunded, they have been unable to research best STEM practices.

The NODE grant will establish the Hispanic-Serving Institution Center for Evaluation and Research Synthesis (HSI-CERS) at UTEP, the only center of its kind.

The grant will support UTEP in developing methods for analyzing how past, current and future NSF HSI–funded programs serve Latino and other minority students in STEM fields.

“With the number of HSIs increasing threefold since they were first federally designated about three decades ago, it’s gratifying to see the increased investment in and recognition of these institutions’ contributions to the postsecondary and science enterprise,” said grant principal investigator Anne-Marie Núñez, PhD, a leading scholar of HSIs and diversity in science.

Additionally, UTEP is in the process of coordinating a second $7 million NSF grant to focus on strengthening community and collaborations in current and potential future HSI awardees.

“HSI-CERS will further strengthen HSIs in their journey to become servingness-centered institutions which will result in long-lasting STEM student success,” NSF HSI program director Sonja Montas-Hunter told UTEP.