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The folks down at the University of Mississippi are celebrating, not just because it’s graduation season, but because they recently conferred doctorate degrees to three African-American graduates in the area of Chemistry, an exceptional achievement for any University.

The Ole Miss website explains:

“On average, about 50 African-American students receive Ph.D.s in chemistry nationwide each year, so UM produced 6 percent of the national total,” said Maurice Eftink, associate provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The history-making candidates who received their degrees Friday were Kari Copeland of Coldwater, Margo Montgomery of New Orleans and Jeffrey Veals of Gloster. And a fourth African-American student, Shanna Stoddard of Louisville, Ky., is on track to earn her doctorate in chemistry in December.

“This is a significant achievement for these three graduates and their families, and it is also significant for the university,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “UM 2020, our new strategic plan, calls on us as the flagship university of our state to lead our state and region in preparing professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially from underrepresented groups.”

It is the second time in recent years that UM has set a benchmark in STEM fields. The university produced four African-American Ph.D.s in mathematics in 2006.

“That was an even more outstanding achievement given that there are only 15-to-30 African-American Ph.D.s in math granted each year. But the current achievement is still pretty noteworthy,” Eftink said.

With our economy becoming increasingly dominated by jobs that require STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees, encouraging more African-American students to pursue these fields will give them the tools necessary to compete in a global economy.

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