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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

NSF grants IU $600,000 for programs, scholarships

The National Science Foundation awarded more than $614,000 to IU to aid its campus-wide efforts to boost participation in undergraduate science and mathematics programs. More than $516,000 of these funds will directly benefit student scholarships within the respective departments.

Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math aim to engage students and faculty within the astronomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics departments, improving student recruitment, retention and career placement.

The collaboration will allow students to network with faculty and students in other STEM disciplines and with high-tech employers in the area, according to a press release. Students will have new opportunities to participate in seminars, career workshops and job fairs, programs within the Women in STEM Living Learning Center, and research and mentorship opportunities.

The initiative was proposed in August 2012, following the announcement of the NSF funding program, said Caty Pilachowski, astronomy professor and principal investigator for the grant.

Provost Lauren Robel and other administrators encouraged faculty leaders across campus to develop the S-STEM program so IU could apply for the funding.
“It was both a goal to get access to scholarship funds but use those funds as leverage to build greater partnerships,” Pilachowski said.

The initiative is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Pre-College and Undergraduate Programs office, where Shelley Singell will serve as program coordinator and a faculty steering committee will provide additional leadership.

The S-STEM program will begin awarding scholarships for spring 2014, and applications were due about a week ago, Pilachowski said.

Directors of several scholarship programs, including the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program, have been encouraged to nominate students to apply for the scholarships.

“For subsequent semesters we’re targeting entering students to help them get started on the right foot,” Pilachowski said.

S-STEM leaders plan to reach out to high schools and to the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers to recruit students and inform them of the scholarship opportunities now available.

Pilachowski said she hopes the collaboration will increase the number of students in science-related majors on campus and broaden the diversity of students across the departments.

Certain departments, including the biology department, have lacked students from underrepresented groups, and others tend to enroll low numbers of female students, Pilachowski said. The physics department has received few applications from incoming students with unmet financial need, Pilachowski said. This might be because those students are not aware of scholarships available, she said.

“We’re working with each department to understand each department’s targeted goal,” Pilachowski said.

Jeremy Bennett is the associate director of science outreach for the College of Arts and Sciences, and collaborates with other science departments on campus for two existing programs, the Science, Technology, and Research Scholars and Integrated Freshman Learning Experience. He said the grant scholarship funds can go a long way in attracting more students, particularly women and minorities, to study science at IU.

“While we have good STEM programs at IU already in existence, they tend to be for high-achieving students that don’t typically have the financial need that this NSF grant requires,” Bennett said.

Another goal of the program is to examine “bottleneck” courses to improve success rates for at-risk students, Bennett said.

“We find some students get lost in the shuffle or need extra support, and we hope this program will alleviate those concerns,” he said.

One example of cross-department integration through the initiative is a new course being developed within the Department of English, a “Writing for Scientists” section of the W350: Intensive Writing course specifically catered to students in science fields.
 
Pilachowski said she hopes the program’s efforts will help encourage more students to pursue science-related majors and be more successful in the process.

“The scholarships are sort of the icing on the cake,” Pilachowski said. “The real cake is the need to make these transformations within these departments.”

Follow reporter Samantha Schmidt on Twitter @schmidtsam7.

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