The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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College of Engineering Receives a $632,369 NSF S-STEM Grant to Help Transfer Students

David M. Ford

David M. Ford

The College of Engineering recently received a $632,369 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program. The S-STEM program “addresses the need for a high quality STEM workforce” by increasing the success of “low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need” who are pursuing degrees in STEM fields, according to the NSF. See NSF S-STEM Program Description

This grant, entitled “Overcoming Barriers for Transfer Students in the Engineering Pipeline,” provides scholarship and academic support to students transferring into the College of Engineering from community colleges. Nearly half of the students who earn baccalaureate degrees in science and engineering in the U.S. complete part of their education at community colleges. See NSF Grant Award Abstract

Scholarships for academically strong engineering students, who may not otherwise be able to afford college, will increase the number of engineering graduates entering the workforce.

The principal investigator is David M. Ford, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College. The co-investigators are: Sergio F. Brena, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering; William J. Leonard, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Undergraduate Program Director in Electrical & Computer Engineering; Jenna L. Marquard, Associate Professor in Mechanical & Industrial Engineering; and Paula Sturdevant Rees, Director of the College’s Diversity Programs Office (DPO).

“By providing additional support for community college students to help them transition to, and graduate from, four-year engineering programs,” said Ford, “we can better ensure these engineering graduates will promote innovation and competiveness in national and regional technology-intensive industries.”

According to Ford, more than 80 percent of the total grant funding will go directly to scholarships for approximately 40 transfer students, designated as S-STEM Scholars. The remainder of the funding will provide enrichment and support activities that will potentially benefit all students in the College of Engineering, as well as the S-STEM Scholars, and will build upon effective practices known to help increase retention and degree completion among community college students that transfer to four-year baccalaureate degree programs.

The focal point for these activities will be the DPO, whose Faculty Advisory Board comprises the project team.

According to DPO Director Rees, “The core mission of the DPO is to build an environment that is welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of all students. DPO is uniquely structured to support this grant because of the network of programs, students, and faculty we have developed to support all students, but with particular attention to cohorts that may feel isolated.”

Rees added that “Our data has shown that transfer students face several unique challenges such as a sense of isolation. The college’s peer mentoring program, coordinated through the DPO, aims to pair new students with experienced peers to help ease their transition to UMass. DPO is looking forward to working with the S-STEM Scholars through this program and others under development.” (July 2015)