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St. Mary’s College of Maryland Professors Receive Nearly $600k Grant from National Science Foundation

Project to Benefit Underserved Populations in the Pursuit of STEM Degrees
September 28, 2012
Press Release #12-113

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St. Mary’s College of Maryland is pleased to announce that five professors have received a grant award totaling $598,000 for student scholarships from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The five-year grant will fund the St. Mary's College of Maryland “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Navigators” project, which is designed to award scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per year to 30 promising STEM students who demonstrate financial need. The project, to be led by Professor of Mathematics David Kung, will award 20 of the scholarships to transfer students from community colleges.

The STEM Navigators project will build upon successful, pre-existing, research-based programs at St. Mary’s College to help students navigate their transition from high schools and community colleges to science and math programs at St. Mary’s. These academic programs include Emerging Scholars Programs (ESP), which are workshops designed to increase the success of underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The St. Mary’s College ESP in mathematics has already drastically improved the performance of historically underserved students in calculus, and similar success is being found in the newer ESPs in computer science and biology. The STEM Navigators project will aim to replicate these successes and add ESPs in chemistry and in physics.

“The strong STEM departments at St. Mary’s College of Maryland graduate majors at proportions well above national averages,” said Kung. “Still, national trends show that some groups of students are less likely to share in this success, including minority students, first-generation college students, and women. To level the playing field, the STEM Navigators project will offer enrichment workshops for incoming STEM students, which will greatly increase students’ chances of staying in their chosen fields.”

To recruit students into the program, St. Mary’s College will partner with Cardozo High School in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore City Public Schools. St. Mary’s College will also partner with the College of Southern Maryland (CSM)—a current S-STEM recipient. Work is underway to expand a computer science agreement between St. Mary’s College and CSM to include all STEM disciplines, which will allow students to apply for dual enrollment to CSM and to complete their B.A. degrees in STEM disciplines at St. Mary's College. In addition, St. Mary’s College’s existing and emerging relationships with regional STEM employers and graduate institutions will facilitate placement of scholarship awardees upon graduation.

“The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) is pleased to be able to partner with St. Mary's College of Maryland on the STEM Navigators project,” said Brad Gottfried, College of Southern Maryland president. “This project, which focuses on growing the STEM workforce by getting previously underserved populations involved and engaged in STEM fields, as well as our other STEM initiatives, contributes toward solving the crisis of STEM workforce deficiencies, both on a national level as well as right here in our own community."

The STEM Navigators project will be run by a team of faculty led by Kung, including Josh Grossman, associate professor of physics; Samantha Elliott, associate professor of biology; Lindsay Jamieson, assistant professor of computer science; and Leah Eller, assistant professor of chemistry. John Ramcharitar, assistant professor of biology, is commended by the team for his work in writing the grant application.

“This grant is a direct result of the outstanding work done by the math and science faculty at St. Mary's College,” said Beth Rushing, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty. “The funds will allow us to add to our existing Emerging Scholars Programs, and thus support more students who wish to study in STEM fields. St. Mary's faculty are deeply committed to ensuring the success of all students, and it is gratifying to have the NSF recognize the excellent programs we have developed.”

The NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program makes grants to institutions of higher education to support scholarships for academically talented students demonstrating financial need. The scholarships make it possible for students to gain hands-on experiences in these disciplines, enabling them to later enter the STEM workforce or STEM graduate school.