Massasoit Community College has been awarded a $649,999 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S-STEM) program. Massasoit’s project, STEM Scholars Associates, will provide scholarship assistance and academic support to low-income, academically talented students enrolled in the College’s Liberal Arts Transfer–Science (LATS) and Computer Technology and Information Management (CTIM) associate degree programs. The LATS program is by far our largest, most popular program of study, and has averaged about 1450-1500 students over the past several years.
The project will help advance educational research into success in STEM fields by examining the effectiveness of student participation in the high-touch, high-intensity activities that are central to its design. Of particular note is the project’s emphasis on addressing the lack of belonging that many underrepresented students cite as reasons they leave STEM majors or do not persist in these fields. Early research suggests that strengthening linkages between students, faculty, and industry professionals leads to increased connection and mutual understanding. “Of the current pool of students in the targeted degree and certificate programs, 40% are low-income students. Additionally, 63% are female, 50% are racial/ethnic minorities, and 17% are non-native English speakers; while well-represented at Massasoit, many of these students are underrepresented in STEM fields,” said Hollyce States, associate dean of grants and sustainability.
The STEM industries are vital sectors of the Massachusetts and US economies, and workforce demand in these fields is anticipated to grow over the next decade. Massasoit’s STEM Scholars Associates project is designed to increase the number and diversity of STEM professionals by addressing the common barriers to STEM success faced by low-income and underrepresented students. “This grant acknowledges the strength of Massasoit Community College’s STEM programs and will help us to build and strengthen our ability to send dedicated, prepared, and qualified STEM students into either a 4-year program or the workforce,” said Dr. Charles Wall, president.
Students will be eligible from four academic pathways: Liberal Arts Transfer–Science, Liberal Arts Transfer–Computer Science, Computer Information Systems–Programming, and Computer Information Systems–User Support. The program will provide financial assistance to enable students to attend full-time and will engage them in activities intended to improve academic performance and confidence, build professional aptitude and reasoning abilities, and establish a community of peers and professionals. Faculty mentors will help ensure that students stay on track toward achieving their academic and career goals. Industry partnerships will provide professionals for a career speaker series, host student interns, and serve as ambassadors for their industries. Students will also have the opportunity to engage in on-campus, undergraduate research, hands-on educational experiences that build critical thinking, problem solving, and workplace skills.
The grant begins on June 15, 2017 and the College will begin offering scholarship assistance to students beginning in spring semester 2018. “The scholarship is not aimed at new, incoming students, but at those who have taken, or are in the process of taking, at least 6 credits at Massasoit; students who begin in the fall will be eligible to apply in late fall for the spring scholarships,” said Associate Dean States.
At the conclusion of Massasoit’s five-year project, approximately 60 students will have earned or be in the process of obtaining a credential for entry-level positions and/or for transfer into a four-year institution in a STEM field.