As the founder and longtime director of M-Sci, Professor Emerita Deborah Goldberg has been instrumental in the effort to increase the diversity and preparedness of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’ STEM graduates. Since 2011, when the first cohort of 20 students arrived on campus for the intensive six-week academic boot camp that precedes all M-Sci scholars’ first semester, she has remained a trusted and guiding presence. 

Professor Goldberg has provided a gift upon her retirement to establish the M-Sci Scholars Student Support Fund, so that future undergraduate students can continue to benefit from her dedication to diversifying the sciences. 

M-Sci aims to eliminate disparities among demographic groups and increase retention and graduation rates in STEM degree programs at the University of Michigan. The two-year college transition program provides the tools for underrepresented students with excellent academic ability and potential—including low income and first generation students, and graduates of under-resourced high schools—to adapt and thrive in Michigan’s highly competitive environment.

Deborah Goldberg is a regular attendee of student poster sessions.

“I started M-Bio, now expanded to all the natural sciences as M-Sci, because I wanted to ensure that everyone had equal access to the resources they needed to succeed in the sciences at the University of Michigan. Such equity is an absolute moral imperative and also has the side benefit that more diverse communities of scientists make for better science,” said Goldberg. 

M-Sci builds a foundation for success through an academic and social support network that connects students to crucial resources and networks at the university. 

“As an undergraduate biology advisor, it broke my heart to see students struggling in their major, not because they didn’t have the capability, but because they didn’t want to ask for help or even feel entitled to the abundant support resources at U-M.”

“Coming from a high school without a strong science background, M-Sci helped me continue my education in the sciences with confidence,” noted undergraduate Zahra Alsafi. “Experiencing such a large campus after having come from a very small school was a culture shock. M-Sci helped me ease my way into the college setting. When I needed the support, I could always seek out my advisers and mentors from M-Sci to help me find resources and develop plans to get through a lesson, a class or the semester as a whole.”

Not least, the program also connects students with similar goals and backgrounds to each other. M-Sci holistically integrates academic supports, such as ongoing academic coaching and group study hours, with social supports, like peer advisors, monthly “family meetings” and cohort social events. 

“The community has been invaluable to me during my time at the University of Michigan, as well as after graduation. Along with the friends I gained, the academic and professional network the program fosters is amazing,” said Alexa Watson, who discovered that she “actually didn’t hate Chemistry” and graduated from U-M with a B.S. in chemical science. Alexa is now pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. “I had the opportunity to visit a biochemistry lab in Buenos Aires through connections, and those same connections helped me secure my position as an undergraduate researcher in the Pratt Lab.”

Students in an M-Bio lab.

Goldberg is delighted that M-Sci’s strong and supportive community has been embraced by students as one of the most valuable and appreciated aspects of the program. The M-Sci scholar network is now 263 students strong, and many are pursuing advanced STEM degrees.

“M-Sci truly became my second family at the University of Michigan, and I am so grateful for the friends and mentors I gained,” said Swarna Shil, currently a graduate student at Case Western Reserve University studying physiology. Shil plans to apply for medical school at the end of her program.

Victoria Rai added, “M-Sci's biggest impact on my college career was the social aspect of providing me a small community at Michigan of students from a variety of backgrounds who could grow, challenge and excel together.” Rai works as a clinical research coordinator at University of Chicago Medicine. She plans to pursue her Ph.D. to continue her research of chronic diseases and the molecular mechanisms that drive them. 

Compared to the LSA student population, M-Sci students are much more likely to remain in STEM programs through graduation (M-Sci’s 86 percent to LSA’s 56 percent) and achieve better STEM educational outcomes, as measured by GPAs. M-Sci scholars are also significantly more diverse than the general population, with close to 50 percent underrepresented minorities, 45 percent low income, and nearly 40 percent first-generation college students.

“However, no matter how strong the academic and social support network is, worrying about paying tuition or later debts makes it harder to focus on academics,” added Goldberg. “The M-Sci Scholars Fund will support students with scholarships or funding for summer research to relieve some of that burden.”

If you would like to make a contribution to the M-Sci Scholars Student Support Fund* in recognition of Goldberg’s career and her commitment to advancing diversity in the sciences, gifts may be made online, or by mailing a check to M-Sci Scholars Student Support Fund, Department of Mathematics, 2074 East Hall, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043. Please make checks payable to University of Michigan.

Gifts will help to ensure that M-Sci can continue to provide the tools for all students to be successful in attaining STEM degrees. We are excited to recognize Goldberg’s outstanding career and continue her legacy at the University of Michigan in this particularly meaningful way.

* The M-Sci Scholars Student Support Fund provides resources for undergraduates in the M-Sci program. It currently is expendable, but may be converted into an endowment fund at the establishing donor’s direction, if the University eliminates fossil fuel investment.

Read more in the retirement article>> Sustained brilliance and dedication: Goldberg, the quintessential U-M professor, retires