More than 120 low-income Nebraska students
will benefit from a new five-year, $3.56 million grant from the National
Science Foundation while they pursue careers in science, technology,
engineering, and math.
Southeast Community College, the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln and Western Nebraska Community College are working together to
build out the state’s STEM workforce through a new grant, STEM Career
Opportunities in Nebraska: Networks, Experiential-learning and Computational
“The STEM Connect project
will give underrepresented students a direct pathway to a four-year degree and
a career in a STEM discipline,” said SCC President Dr. Paul Illich. “I believe
institutions of higher education are at their best when we are all working
together to create the highest quality experience for our students.”
Funding from NSF’s S-STEM initiative will
provide scholarships and academic support for low-income students, specifically
targeting underrepresented minorities, women and rural and first-generation
students. Students who begin at SCC or WNCC in the Academic Transfer program
will take courses to build their strengths in math and computer science, while
the students who begin at UNL will major in math, computer science, computer
engineering or software engineering.
“We will be working with academically gifted,
low-income students and help them to successfully enter the workforce or pursue
graduate education,” said Jim Lewis, Aaron Douglas Professor of mathematics and
STEM CONNECT’s principal investigator.
Financial need and scholarship amounts will be
determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as
FAFSA, and scholarships can be as much as $8,000 per year. They are renewable
for four years at UNL, or two years at SCC or WNCC, and then funds will follow
students for two more years if they transfer to Nebraska.
Lewis and the team will identify a first
cohort of six to eight students who will receive funding beginning with the
spring 2020 semester, and these students will become the program’s first peer
mentors. An additional 20 students will be chosen to begin studies at UNL in
fall 2020.Between SCC and WNCC, an additional 32 students will receive a
scholarship in either spring or fall 2020.
The grant also funds a research study, led by Smith
and Rebecca Carr, associate director of institutional research at SCC. The
study examines which factors affect retention, academic success and graduation
in STEM fields among low-income students, and how those factors differ among
students who transfer from a two-year to a four-year institution.
“The STEM Connect project
also will serve as a catalyst to strengthen and expand our transfer processes
to maximize student recruitment, retention and success for all students,”