STEM grants will help students through community, 4-year colleges -- Gazette.Net


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Students studying in the science or math fields at the College of Southern Maryland have an opportunity to earn 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 entice students into 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 is designed to award scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per year to 30 students who demonstrate financial need and who 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 the scholarships.

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

He said 10 scholarships will go to students transfering in from other four-year colleges, while 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 a NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics grant last year in the amount of $586,484. Sandy Poinsett, a math professor with CSM, is overseeing that grant, which eventually 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. CSM is in the second year of the four-year grant.

Like St. Mary’s College’s 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 in their coursework through tutoring, bringing in guest speakers or taking field trips, Poinsett said.

Some of the students will likely 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 in place a formal agreement that allows CSM students majoring in computer science to automatically move to St. Mary’s College after completing 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 will also partner with Cardozo High School in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore city public schools to recruit students into the program.

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

jyeatman@somdnews.com