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National Science Foundation funds STEM initiative at St. Kate's

Professor Yvonne Ng works with students in an engineering course at St. Catherine University.
Professor Yvonne Ng works with students in an engineering course at St. Catherine University.
Photo by Catherine Tsen \'11

St. Catherine University will provide more than $500,000 in scholarships to students majoring in STEM subjects over the next five years, thanks to a renewed grant from the National Science Foundation.

Faculty members Patricia Dunlop, Ph.D., John Pellegrini, Ph.D., and Yvonne Ng, secured the renewal award for the S-STEM program (Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the amount of $600,000. Their project, “Phase Forward: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities,” will provide scholarships over the next five years to students majoring in biology, chemistry, math, computer science, physics and engineering — as well as additional information about STEM majors and careers.

Recruitment and retention for women in STEM

This project continues and expands on a previous S-STEM project that encouraged students to complete degrees in STEM subjects. For the initial project, faculty identified several barriers to persistence in STEM majors among S-STEM scholars. As a result, they structured the S-STEM program to identify and support individual scholars in four categories:

• Entering first-year students

• Continuing students, or previous scholars whose records allow them to retain their scholarships

• Latecomers, or students who enter college undeclared or are considering non-STEM majors, but who later decide to pursue a STEM major

• Students with tenacity, or students whose records prevent them from being in the continuing students category, but who demonstrate a love of their major discipline despite their academic difficulty

Expanding access to STEM

While the new program at St. Kate’s already reaches out to female students who demonstrate financial need, the program is also establishing contacts within two dominant immigrant communities in Minnesota, the Hmong and Somali population. These under-represented student groups are being actively recruited into the scholarship program.

Over the course of the five-year project, at least 65 scholarships will be awarded. Because graduates of St. Kate’s succeed in completing graduate programs and entering the workforce, the project will also play a major role in expanding access to STEM careers. Through the grant, additional information about STEM majors will be provided to students interested in medicine and the environment, and programs will be offered to illustrate the relationship between mathematics and other areas of interest.

This is the second grant St. Catherine University has received from the National Science Foundation under the S-STEM model, bringing the total to $1.2 million, which includes over $1 million in scholarship funding.

June 20, 2011 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, STEM, Students