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STEM Students Find Success with Help from the NSF

Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, several STEM students have access to a variety of financial and experiential resources.

In November 2021, Millersville University was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation Scholarships in STEM program. Two years later, the grant has gone on to provide a myriad of resources for STEM students, providing them with financial resources and real-world experiences.  

The NSF S-STEM program provides financial and support services of up to $10,000 each year to a group of STEM students, renewable for up to four years. The program’s primary goals are to increase recruitment, retention and graduation of STEM students and their persistence in the field beyond the grant. The program also hopes to establish a sustainable and replicable model for this type of work for the University and other similar institutions. Principal Investigator and Professor of Mathematics Dr. Janet White says the program is currently on track to meet these goals. 

“Additional broader impacts are to produce a strong, globally competitive STEM workforce, complete with students equipped with scientific literacy and confidence in their field of study and to disseminate the successes of those programs at various professional conferences,” White explains.  

S-STEM Scholars collecting aquatic organisms in Roddy Pond with a plankton net, during the May 2023 Workforce Development Program.

The program currently supports 19 students in a variety of STEM disciplines including: biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, mathematics, physics and robotics. The program will welcome 10 additional first-year students in the fall of 2024.  

Over the summer after their first year, each S-STEM scholar participates in The Workforce Development Program, which is a paid immersive and research-based experience. Each participant prepares for an independent research project by developing skills in scientific literacy and experimental design. They travel to the Chincoteague Bay Field Station on Wallops Island, Virginia to gain hands-on experience and apply their knowledge by processing samples, analyzing data and preparing a scientific poster presentation. The second cohort of students will participate in the Workforce Development Program in May 2024. 

“The Workforce Development Program ended with the first annual Millersville University National Science Foundation Scholarships in STEM S3: Supporting Student Success Research Symposium 2023,” adds White. “In groups of three, scholars presented their research project to approximately 60 attendees, including MU administrators, faculty, students, S-STEM grant personnel, family and friends.” 

S-STEM scholars also attend monthly Community Building and Retention Activities, including two social events, two community service events, a workshop from on-campus support services and a colloquium event including MU alumni. Last year included workshops about professional presence and self-awareness, community service and time-management skill development facilitated by MU support staff from the Career Center, Academic Advisement and Success Coaching. 

Lastly, the scholars are paired with peer and faculty mentors. Meeting with faculty mentors at least once a month and with peer mentors weekly, gives the scholars access to additional academic support.  

During the 2023 Workforce Development Program, S-STEM Scholars surveyed contours of a beach in Virginia using a beach-profiling method.

White shares that the success of the program would not be possible without the project management team, which includes White, Dr. Carolyn Weaver (Biology, Project Manager, Co-PI), Co-PIs Dr. Judith Cebra-Thomas (Biology), Dr. Nanette Dietrich (Educational Foundations) and Dr. Nazli Hardy, and Senior Personnel: Dr. Marc Harris (Dean, College of Science and Technology), Dr. John Haughery (Applied Engineering, Safety & Technology), Dr. Ajoy Kumar (Earth Sciences), Dr. Kristen Lawson (Academic Advising), Dr. Xin Li (Physics), Dr. Melissa Mullen-Davis (Chemistry) and Dr. Miriam Witmer (Educational Foundations) 

The program currently has an opening for a rising third-year student to begin in Fall 2024. Students must demonstrate financial need and have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Interested students should contact White for more information on how to apply and interview at Janet.White@millersville.edu.  

The program is also recruiting peer mentors for the 2024-25 academic year, which is a paid position. Interested students should contact Weaver at Carolyn.Weaver@millersville.edu for more information.  

 

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2130176.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

 

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