More than 73,000 jobs requiring sciences preparation are expected to be added to the North Texas workforce by 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor & National Center for O*NET Development. Thanks to a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant announced this week, Austin College will be able to educate more science graduates to meet the growing need.
The NSF grant of nearly $650,000 will allow Austin College to develop the “ACCESS” (Austin College’s Career-Empowering STEM Scholars) program for academically talented and financially needy students majoring in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics in preparation for STEM careers. The program goal is to increase students’ academic and employment success and increase the numbers of students pursuing STEM employment.
Not only does the grant allow Austin College to award six scholarships each year of up to $10,000, renewable for up to four years, to qualified incoming freshmen for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, it will allow the College “to enhance current programs by growing the total number of students seeking a STEM career and creating an ecosystem of support for those students,” said Dr. Stephanie Gould, associate professor of chemistry and principle investigator for the NSF grant and ACCESS program. The program will utilize curricular and co-curricular activities that enhance student success.
“Scholarships are the front line of providing students with high financial need a means to access the high-quality education that Austin College provides, but scholarships alone cannot assure a student has the ability to graduate in four years,” Gould said. “Students must be provided with support tailored to their needs throughout their four years. This grant allows Austin College to provide scholarships and additional support through faculty mentoring, paid internships, and targeted programing.”
Austin College’s ACCESS program will include additional programming to prepare student for professional success and civic engagement. In addition to the mentor assigned to every Austin College student upon enrollment (which might not be in the academic area of anticipated major), ACCESS participants will be assigned a science mentor. Students will be expected to participate in career readiness and preparation programs provided by Career Services, to undertake research with a member of the faculty, to take part in the College’s STAR (STEM Teaching And Research) Leadership Program, to pursue formalized connections with STEM employers through internship opportunities, and to contribute to the ACCESS cohort and regularly scheduled ACCESS professional development meetings, which will be open to all students.
According to the National Science Foundation website, “A well-educated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is a significant contributor to maintaining the competitiveness of the U.S. in the global economy.” The foundation’s scholarship program seeks to increase the number of low-income students with need obtaining STEM degrees, to improve the education of future scientists, engineers, and technicians, and to advance understanding of the factors that affect the success and retention in STEM of low-income students.
“Austin College is proud to be a part of the S-STEM program,” said Dr. Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty at Austin College. “The College has a long history of commitment to excellence and a commitment to providing all students—regardless of financial background—the opportunity to develop their potential and reach their goals. That sort of commitment is vital to the future of the United States and its economy. The NSF-S-STEM grant will allow the College and faculty to further support our talented students as they pursue an education in the sciences.”
The ACCESS program will involve several members of the faculty. Dr. Stephanie Gould will chair the ACCESS Management Team, coordinate ACCESS summer research experiences, monitor participant progress, and serve as NSF liaison, as well as a number of administrative projects connected to the grant. Co-principle investigators Dr. Lisa Brown, professor of psychology, and Amanda Kisselle, executive director of admission, will serve on the scholarship selection committee and have specific duties related to their areas of expertise. Additionally Dr. Ryan Felix, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Jessica Healy, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Andrea Overbay, assistant professor of mathematics; Dr. Kelynne Reed, professor of biology; Dr. John Richardson, associate professor of chemistry; Dr. Brad Smucker, associate professor of chemistry; and Dr. David Whelan, assistant professor of physics, will serve as faculty mentors, provide research experiences, and develop and implement the monthly professional development meetings.
Information about scholarship eligibility and application will be posted as available on the Austin College website for students entering Austin College for the first time in Fall Term 2017.
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 36 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of 1,250 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.