STEM grants to help students continue math, science studies in college

November 7, 2012

Students studying in math or science fields at the College of Southern Maryland have an opportunity to receive scholarship money to continue their studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

St. Mary’s College will use most of a $598,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to interest students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Professors at St. Mary’s College received the five-year grant to fund the college’s STEM Navigators project, which will award scholarships from $5,000 to $10,000 per year to 30 students who demonstrate financial need and are majoring in a science or math field.

Math professor David Kung, who will lead the project, said $520,000 of the grant will be used directly for scholarships.

Kung said the Navigators project also will offer enrichment workshops for incoming STEM students to help level the playing field and increase students’ chances of staying in their chosen areas of study.

He said 10 scholarships will go to students transferring in from other four-year colleges, and 20 scholarships will be awarded to transfer students from community colleges.

“We expect that many of those will come from CSM,” he said.

The College of Southern Maryland also received an NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics grant last year for $586,484. Sandy Poinsett, a math professor with the college, is overseeing that grant, which will help as many as 120 students with scholarships during their first two years of college at CSM.

“Some of these students couldn’t have afforded to go full time if it was not for this money,” she said. The College of Southern Maryland is in the second year of the four-year grant.

Like the St. Mary’s College grant, the bulk of the CSM grant is going toward scholarships. About 15 percent of the grant will be used to help those students succeed through tutoring, bringing in guest speakers or taking field trips, Poinsett said.

Some students will probably be able to continue studying on scholarship using St. Mary’s College’s grant money for their third and fourth years.

“We are trying to increase that relationship because, basically, we are neighbors,” Poinsett said.

St. Mary’s College already has an agreement allowing CSM students majoring in computer science to automatically move to St. Mary’s College after two years at the community college.

“We’re going to work to build better articulation agreements in the other sciences,” Kung said.

He said the NSF grant will help, at least informally, connect the two colleges in the math and science fields.

St. Mary’s College also will partner with Cardozo High School in the District and Baltimore city public schools to recruit students for the program.

Kung said the faculty is particularly interested in awarding scholarships to students who fall into groups that are underrepresented in science and math fields, including minorities, first-generation college students and women. He said that although women are well represented in some of the science fields, such as biology, they make up only 20 percent of students nationally in fields such as physics and computer science.

“The College of Southern Maryland is pleased to be able to partner with St. Mary’s College of Maryland on the STEM Navigators project,” Brad Gottfried, president of CSM, said in a statement. “This project, which focuses on growing the STEM workforce by getting previously underserved populations involved and engaged in STEM fields, as well as our other STEM initiatives, contributes toward solving the crisis of STEM workforce deficiencies, both on a national level as well as right here in our own community.”

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