Our Mission

The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network was established in July 1990, as a non-profit organization in Washington, DC, dedicated to improving education for minorities throughout the nation. It is the successor organization to the MIT-based QEM Project that was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. With initial support from Carnegie and MIT, QEM began its operation as a focal point for the implementation of strategies to help realize the vision and goals set forth in the QEM Project's January 1990 report: Education That Works: An Action Plan for the Education of Minorities.

QEM seeks to put into practice the recommendations in the QEM Action Plan by working with minority and non-minority individuals, organizations, and institutions around the country to help coordinate and energize efforts to improve the education of minorities, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

Employing a unique array of opportunities and approaches, QEM has established an extensive network of STEM faculty, administrators, and students and to successfully engage in a range of institutional and individual capacity-building activities. Strategies employed and lessons learned in the implementation of one project inform approaches in other projects. With the assistance of experienced STEM consultants and evaluators, QEM offers high quality technical assistance, encouragement, and follow-up support to chief academic officers, STEM faculty, and STEM students at a range of minority-serving institutions as well as underrepresented minority faculty at non-minority institutions.

Our History

The QEM Network, the successor organization to the MIT-based QEM Project, was established in 1990 with initial core support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  During the inaugural year, QEM received funding from federal agencies and private foundations for specific programmatic efforts focused on quality education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for underrepresented groups.  In April 1991, QEM established the Quality Education for Minorities in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering (QEM/MSE) Network, a coalition of over 25 minority and non-minority institutions, school districts, and national mathematics, science, and education organizations.  

On April 8, 1992, the QEM/MSE Network issued a comprehensive national plan to increase the participation of minorities in mathematics, science, and engineering, fields crucial to our nation’s future prosperity. The plan, entitled Together We Can Make It Work: A National Agenda to Provide Quality Education for Minorities in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, covered pre-school to the post-graduate level, and called for fundamental changes in recruitment, teaching, curriculum, teacher preparation, and career guidance. Throughout the 1990s, QEM’s Network members collaborated to achieve the Year 2000 numerical goals outlined in the Action Plan for MSE degree achievement. From 1992-2006, the QEM/MSE Network conducted 15 annual national conferences to: address major issues and barriers affecting the STEM education of underrepresented minorities; identify potential strategies for addressing these issues and barriers; highlight effective interventions; and recognize outstanding STEM-related achievements of students, faculty, and member institutions.

Today, QEM continues to be the premier organization for improving the quality of education for minorities, by providing technical assistance to MSIs, funding internship opportunities for underrepresented students, and advocating for college and career readiness in STEM.  Visit “QEM IMPACT” to read our achievements from over more than a quarter century of service.  

Our Founder

Dr. Shirley Mathis McBay assumed the position of President of the QEM Network in July 1990 and retired in July 2016. Prior to QEM she spent ten years as Dean for Student Affairs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and three years as Director of the MIT-based QEM Project. Prior to serving in the MIT Administration, Dr. McBay served for five years as Program Manager/Director in the Science Education Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and as a member of the faculty and administration at Spelman College in Atlanta over a fifteen-year period.

At NSF, Dr. McBay directed two national programs designed to increase minority participation in science and engineering. While at Spelman, she held various positions including Professor of Mathematics, Department Head, Division Chair, and Associate Academic Dean. At QEM, Dr. McBay has directed or provided leadership for numerous science and engineering-focused projects funded by major corporate or foundation philanthropic efforts as well as several federal agencies. The projects focused on broadening participation in STEM and/or achieving educational equity for underserved students and communities across the nation.

Dr. McBay also has served on numerous national committees focused on broadening participation in STEM including the National Academies’ Committee on Underrepresented Groups and the Expansion of the Science and Engineering Workforce Pipeline. Her many awards include the 2009 American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences, sponsored by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.

Dr. McBay received the B.A. degree in Chemistry in 1954 summa cum laude at age 19; master's degrees in Chemistry and Mathematics from Atlanta University in 1957 and 1958 respectively; and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Georgia in 1966. She holds honorary degrees from Morgan State University and the University of the District of Columbia.