Carnegie Mellon University: PNC Foundation Grants $3 Million to CMU, Expands Access to Pre-college Programming

Carnegie Mellon University has been awarded a $3 million grant from the PNC Foundation that will enhance and expand access to the university’s summer pre-college programs in STEM, arts, humanities and social sciences fields. The grant will fund the university’s Summer Academy for Math and Science, as well as an expansion of its ongoing pilot of the Leadership, Excellence, Access and Persistence program focused on the arts and humanities. The grant was announced July 29 during SAMS’s annual symposium and closing event for students, which was also attended by CMU and PNC Foundation leadership.

With roots dating back nearly 50 years, the Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) launched as a formal program in 2000. It is a national, immersive, project-based summer residential experience that helps promising high school students develop a deeper understanding of math and science. Taught by Carnegie Mellon faculty, SAMS helps students who may have less access to STEM education prepare for a future that might include pursuing a college major in a related field through hands-on scholarly projects that enable them to build relevant skills as well as confidence. The university provides the program for free to all selected participants. In the past 15 years, 1,300 students from 45 states and Puerto Rico have traveled to Pittsburgh for the rigorous program.

The PNC Foundation grant will support 75 students participating in SAMS annually and provide financial education programming to those students and their families.

“The highly regarded Summer Academy for Math and Science is the cornerstone of Carnegie Mellon’s dynamic pre-college programming, providing talented high school rising seniors with a learning experience that is often not available in their schools,” said CMU President Farnam Jahanian. “Through the PNC Foundation’s generous support, students will be able to envision a future in STEM fields they may otherwise would not have been exposed to, which will help increase the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and voices in areas that have traditionally been underrepresented.”

About 75% of SAMS participants go on to pursue a degree at a selective university, and nearly 40% pursue undergraduate degrees in STEM fields. For those who enroll at Carnegie Mellon, an impressive 70% pursue STEM majors. Students from any background are welcome in the program, and SAMS staff members actively recruit participants from across the United States with backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in math, science and engineering fields, including women, students of color, those from low-income families, those who would be first-generation college students, and students from households where English is a second language.

“PNC Foundation supports Carnegie Mellon University’s pre-college programming because it is proven to create opportunities for students from all backgrounds to succeed in higher education,” said Sally McCrady, chair and president of PNC Foundation. “We believe education is a powerful force for individual economic mobility, and it also helps create the diverse, skilled workforce of tomorrow, which lifts up our entire economy.”

In addition to the support for SAMS, the PNC Foundation’s grant includes funding for the Leadership, Excellence, Access and Persistence (LEAP) program. Launched in 2021, LEAP focuses on underrepresented Pittsburgh-area high school students who are passionate about the arts, humanities and social sciences and engages them through an intensive, non-residential summer experience, as well as year-round programming that continues through the end of college. LEAP enrolls students from the Pittsburgh Public School system and City Charter High School, with a near-term goal to increase participation to 75 students each year.

“As a former participant of the program that became SAMS decades ago, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative impact of this signature Carnegie Mellon initiative,” said CMU Trustee and alumnus Larry E. Jennings Jr., who attended the SAMS closing event and is a longtime, major supporter who established an endowment for the program in 2017. “I’m excited to see how this generous grant from the PNC Foundation will allow us to expand SAMS and give these promising students the opportunity to experience the activities and connections that have made a difference in my life and the lives of so many others.”

Both SAMS and LEAP combine disciplinary-specific academic programming in related fields, as well as activities and workshops to help students and their families prepare for applying, attending and thriving in college.

“Participating in CMU’s pre-college programs can be nothing short of life-changing,” said M. Shernell Smith, associate dean and executive director of the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, where the SAMS program is based. “Learning from Carnegie Mellon’s world-class faculty and building relationships with peers who will become part of their support system now and into the future is the foundation that will allow them to succeed as they navigate fields where diversity is critical but still encounter few people who look like themselves.”

The PNC Foundation grant is the latest commitment to be announced as part of Make Possible: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University. The multiyear effort aims to raise $2 billion in private philanthropy to support CMU’s strategic priorities across the university and its seven colleges and schools.