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Jan. 12, 2018

MSU to use $4.9M NSF grant for low-income students studying natural science

Michigan State University is providing a life-changing opportunity to low-income community college students studying science and mathematics. The project will allow talented students to transfer to MSU’s College of Natural Science to complete their science bachelor’s degrees.

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

“The initiative’s goal 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 College of Natural Science associate dean for undergraduate studies.

Community college students who transfer to 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 natural science, academic performance in science and math courses, graduation rates and aspirations to pursue natural science careers.

“Many academically talented students from a low-income background enroll at a community college with the hope of one day transferring to a college or university for a bachelor’s degree,” said Jerry Caldwell, a co-principal investigator and director of MSU’s 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.”

The first students will arrive at MSU in fall 2018, while another group of students will enter partner institutions at Washtenaw and Mott community colleges as freshmen.

To understand the pathway from community college to four-year programs in science, the project will develop case studies to guide future programs supporting students. Vashti Sawtelle, assistant professor of physics, and Ariel Robbins, academic adviser of Charles Drew Science Scholars, will also help with the 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.

By: Val Osowski

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