A group of Sam Houston State University students and faculty hopes to change the lives of 100 lucky seventh-graders through a prestigious grant awarded by GTE, according to project director Scott Slough.

Slough, a chemistry lecturer at SHSU, said a $30,000 GTE FOCUS Grant won by the school will be used over a two-year period to interest minority students in math and science careers. SHSU is one of 15 schools in the nation to win a GTE FOCUS Grant in 1995.

The GTE FOCUS program was created in 1982 to help colleges and universities respond creatively to issues affecting higher education and business.

"FOCUS is part of GTE's long-standing commitment to provide educational assistance to students," said John Genger, GTE general manager. "Our educational assistance programs such as FOCUS help create a pool of technical talent in the United States that business will be able to draw from in the future."

Slough said one reason minorities shy away from math and science is the public perception, largely true, that scientists are usually white males and to a lesser extent, white females. That needs to change if minorities hope to compete in today's technological society, Slough said, adding that a good starting point is the seventh grade before negative perceptions toward math and science set in.

"Very seldom are we able to change someone who hates science into a science major in college," Slough said.

The heart of the effort to change attitudes involves SHSU students and faculty who will mentor seventh-graders from Huntsville, Coldspring, Big Sandy, Livingston and Woodville. Slough said eight-to-10 faculty members and a yet unknown number of SHSU students will participate.

It's hoped two-to-three SHSU minority students from each science discipline, as well as mathematics, will teach and serve as role models for the seventh-graders.

Some SHSU science students, such as physics major Pamela Fields, are already excited about the program and can't wait to share their interests with the seventh-graders.

"I think it's a great idea," Fields said. "I come from a small high school that didn't have a lot of resources. This program will get students far more prepared for college."

Another program goal is to cement relations between students and mentors, ideally leading to continuous interaction and encouragement between the groups. In addition, students will be tested for attitudes toward math and science careers both before and after participation for comparison with a control group of students.

It's hoped funding can be found to run the program another three years, which would see the 100 participants through the 11th grade. The students would be monitored to see how many register for math or science courses in their senior years.

Slough said the project will benefit from a fiber-optic cable scheduled to be laid from SHSU along U.S. Highway 190 to the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation. Slough calls the fiber-optic link the "backbone" of the project. It will permit regular contact between students and mentors through E-mail, which, Slough insists, every collegian should know how to use.

"With our $30,000 we couldn't provide the fiber-optic connection," Slough said, "but we can provide the application."


Written by Paul Sturrock. Contact: Scott Slough at 409-294-1529, or e-mail

Feb. 1, 1996