Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Announces $710K for University of Memphis from the National Science Foundation

July 31, 2012
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today announced that the University of Memphis has received two federal grants totaling more than $700,000, both awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).   The first grant -- worth $574,848 – is for a project entitled “Supporting a New Generation.”  The second grant -- worth $136,178 – is for a project entitled “Making Global Capital Work: Economic Openness and Corporate Governance in Chinese Capital Markets.”

“The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are growing quickly and need employees with specialized training,” said Congressman Cohen.  “These new federal funds will help local college students train for and secure emerging high-tech jobs – especially minority and first-generation students.”

The first project -- “Supporting a New Generation” -- provides scholarships to able and financially needy upper-division students majoring in all STEM fields. The project emphasizes supporting students from groups that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines. A primary goal is to ensure such students graduate in five years with a minimum of student debt. This is done through a combination of individual counseling, tutoring, group seminars, internships, and research experiences. All this takes place within strong cohorts of students with similar experiences and goals. Additional goals include improving student placement after graduation and increasing the number of students going to graduate school in STEM disciplines.

Intellectual Merit: The academic programs into which the students go are strong, and there are academic support activities. The project emphasizes placing students within local industry and in retaining contact with these students. These goals are pursued though a combination of industry presentations, internships, seminars on applying to graduate programs, and comprehensive, convenient exit surveys. The S-STEM project has considerable support within local industry. It also exploits the natural cohorts that have been formed under the aegis of the MemphiSTEP program.

Broader Impact: The project is increasing the number and diversity of students who complete a STEM major and go on to work in the field or to further education. It specifically targets students from populations underrepresented in science and first-generation college students. The project emphasizes employing local talent that serves to enrich both the individual students and the local community.

The second project -- “Making Global Capital Work: Economic Openness and Corporate Governance in Chinese Capital Markets” -- examines how global investors in China’s nascent capital markets shape firm outcomes including firm performance, technology transfer, and domestic research and development (R&D); where they fail and what the problems are; and in which institutional contexts they succeed, and why. Most financial-economic studies of global capital agree on the positive effects of opening a country’s stock market to foreign investors. But political economists and sociologists emphasize countries’ institutional configurations and local variation that often constrain, weaken, and even disable the benefits of economic globalization.

“These new federal funds will help students, scholars and professionals better understand China’s economic policies and how they interact with American policy,” said Congressman Cohen.  “China has one off the largest, most influential economies in the world.  It’s important that we study how and why they pursue their economic policies.”

The investigators of this project will call for a more balanced perspective on global capital by integrating these two theoretical accounts. Three datasets on China’s publicly-traded firms are combined: the WindDB dataset covering these firms’ financial information, and the China Center for Economics Research (CCER) and the Chinese Securities Markets and Accounting Research (CSMAR) datasets detailing organizational information. The resulting dataset provides company-by-year observations from 1994 till 2011. Acknowledging that quantitative analysis may not capture sufficient empirical details about how processes work, the investigators will conduct case-studies of 9-12 firms as supplementary data.

In terms of broader impacts, this research will contribute to the thriving interdisciplinary literature on the institutions of corporate governance around the world. In recent years, China has deepened its integration into the global market and developed its corporate governance regime. But the Chinese model of corporate setting where state entities are dominating and controlling shareholders is not well understood. This research will provide both theoretical and practical insights into how countries can initiate organizational and institutional changes to take advantage of the potential benefits brought by foreign investments over time. Findings should have practical implications for both corporate managers and public policy.