March 26, 2019

Grant Will Fund 96 STEM Scholarships

STEM Scholarships

The chance for STEM Scholarships at the College of Southern Maryland just got a major boost.

Thanks to a $953,243 award by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, CSM will be able to provide 96 new scholarships to students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The grant will help to address the need for a high-quality STEM workforce in a variety of related disciplines throughout Southern Maryland.

“This is a very competitive program,” said NSF Program Director and Expert Elizabeth Teles, who oversaw the grant award. “CSM succeeded in securing additional grant money because they proved that they are building on success.”

“It was pretty exciting to receive the news,” said CSM Mathematics Professor Sandra Poinsett, who acted as the lead in submitting the grant request. “Our team worked on writing and rewriting this grant, and moving through the NSF’s reviews, for a very long time.”

This marks the second time CSM has gotten funding from the NSF S-STEM program. The first grant of $586,484, awarded in July 2012, was almost doubled this cycle because of students’ continued, proven achievements.

Among the students who have achieved success is S-STEM grant recipient and CSM Alumna Parita Patel of La Plata, who started her academic career at CSM in 2012. Since she graduated with her associate degree in math in 2014, Ms. Patel transferred to the University of Maryland College Park to finish her bachelor’s degree in biological studies. Last fall, she was accepted into the health policy management master’s program at Temple University.

For CSM STEM students, “proven success” can also be demonstrated by strong partnerships that ensure seamless transition from CSM to four-year schools. In the previous reporting year, 1,682 CSM students easily transferred to 239 four-year colleges and universities in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in their following academic year. Sixty-four percent of the students transferred to in-state, four-year institutions like St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Towson University, University of Maryland College Park, and University of Maryland University College.

As much as student success was pivotal to CSM receiving additional funds, Ms. Poinsett added that the award is larger because the demand to fill STEM-related jobs has grown in the region. In the grant request, Ms. Poinsett and her team demonstrated how Southern Maryland’s three counties are “located at the epicenter of military and federal government installations supported by thousands of private sector contractors and suppliers.”

Dominion Power, Exelon Generation, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, military installations, and other energy companies work with the college to grow a workforce of engineers and technicians.

In 2017, the US Bureau of Labor Statics reported that “although STEM occupations made up 6.2 percent of national employment, they made up nearly 23 percent of employment in [the areas of] California-Lexington Park, Maryland. As a share of total employment, Southern Maryland had nearly 49 times as many aerospace engineers as the United States as a whole, as well as high concentrations of several other types of engineers and engineering technicians.”

Patel’s younger sister Foram Patel and younger brother Parshva Patel are both enrolled at CSM and are also pursuing STEM degrees. However, Parita is proud to point out that she is the first girl in her family to earn a STEM degree.

“I had a great time at CSM,” she said. “I think starting my academic career at CSM was the best decision I have ever made in my life.”

Along with scholarship and support services for CMS students, grant money will fund efforts to increase enrollments through extensive K-16 STEM outreach in the area and improve student registration through advising and program pathways to encourage retention; increase student retention through community-building, bi-weekly cohort contact, mentoring, tutoring, research component, summer bridge program, and enrichment experiences.

Students who qualify as academically talented, with demonstrated financial need and who have declared a STEM major, including programs in applied science and technology, computer information systems, biological sciences, computer science, engineering, information services technology, engineering technology, information systems, cybersecurity, and physical sciences can apply for the S-STEM NSF grant. Applicants must provide a one-page essay explaining why they have chosen a STEM career major. NSF will distribute the funds to CSM Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2023. Visit CSM’s website for more information.

The CSM Project Management Team responsible for securing the NSF S-STEM grant and managing it along with Ms. Poinsett include Professor of Biology Turner Coggins; Professor of Biology Melanie Osterhouse; Professor of Mathematics Susan Stickland; Financial Assistance Director/STEM Administrator Chris Zimmermann; Assistant Professor in Science and Engineering Division and CSM Endowed Professor for Innovation John Short; Business, Technology and Public Service Division Chair and Professor Bernice Brezina; Professor of Sociology/Research Dr. Maria Bryant; CSM Associate Vice President of Planning, Institutional Effectiveness and Research Dr. Kelly McMurray; Patuxent River Engineering Education Research Partnership Director David Barrett; and Naval Surface Warfare Center Systems Integration Department Head John Hungerford. Ms. Poinsett also worked with former Grants Development Specialist Becky Cockerham on the project.

For more about the College of Southern Maryland, visit its Leader member page.

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