MSU awarded $4.9 million S-STEM grant for low-income students studying natural science

  • Jan 10, 2018
  • NSF, Students, STEM Education
  • Homepage Hero, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Research, Students, College of Natural Science

student looking into microscope

The goal of MSU S-STEM Natural Science Transfer Science Scholars program is to increase the quality and number of academically talented low-income students studying STEM and completing four-year degrees. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz.

An initiative at Michigan State University is providing a life-changing opportunity to low-income community college students studying science and mathematics. The project, launching this month, will provide a way for talented students to transfer to MSU into the College of Natural Science (NatSci) to complete their science baccalaureate degrees, either in preparation for science graduate studies or the workforce.

The National Science Foundation awarded $4.9 million to Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) for Natural Science Transfer Scholars, which will roll out over the course of five years in partnership with C. S. Mott Community College, Flint, Mich., and Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The goal of this project is to increase the quality and number of academically talented low-income students studying STEM and completing four-year degrees,” said Mark Voit, the project’s principal investigator and NatSci associate dean for undergraduate studies.

Community college students who transfer to a natural science baccalaureate degree program at MSU will be given financial assistance and receive academic support and professional development. MSU researchers leading the project will study several factors affecting students’ progress, including their persistence in the natural sciences; academic performance in science and math courses; graduation rates; and aspirations to pursue careers in the natural sciences.

“Many academically talented students from a low-income background enroll at a community college with the hope of one day being able to go to a college or university for a bachelor’s degree,” said Jerry Caldwell, a co-principal investigator and director of the Charles Drew Science Scholars program. “Many aspire to a science or science-related career. Supporting these students is essential to broadening participation in science and to diversifying the science and technical workforce.”

In fall 2018, NatSci will welcome its first cohort of students, while another cohort will enter partner institutions Washtenaw and Mott community colleges as first-time college students. Each year through 2022, the institutions will welcome new cohorts as researchers aim to gain a better understanding of how to maximize students’ success in pursuing science and math degrees.

To understand the pathway from community college to four-year programs in science, the project will develop a set of longitudinal case studies, which will be used to guide the future design of programs supporting students who transfer into natural science academic programs. Other co-principal investigators from MSU who will aid the project are Vashti Sawtelle, assistant professor of physics, and Ariel Robbins, academic adviser of the Charles Drew Science Scholars program.

“Ultimately, this project will increase the number of STEM graduates and advance our nation’s understanding of how to best support the development of self-efficacy, mindset, and identity as scientists among low-income students who transfer from two-year colleges into four-year STEM degree programs,” Caldwell said.

The project is seeking academically talented, low-income students from Michigan who are interested in pursuing science degrees. The most qualified students will be offered scholarship support, with qualifying factors being academic performance combined with nontraditional indicators of motivation, perseverance and grit. For more information, prospective students may call 517-353-8491.

 

Banner image: An initiative at Michigan State University, the "Scholars in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) for Natural Science Transfer Scholars,"  is providing a life-changing opportunity to low-income community college students studying science and mathematics. Photo courtesy MSU.