By Suni Jo Roberts
Two new National Science Foundation grants will give Washtenaw Community College’s STEM program financial support for its programs and students.
The financial support will be given to students in the form of scholarships. One of the scholarships is the STEM grant, which provides full funding for economically disadvantaged students for two years at WCC and also to transfer to Michigan State University’s college of natural science.
The second scholarship is the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation which gives scholarships to students that are historically underrepresented in the STEM fields in order to increase the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to this group. This group consists of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders, according to the NSF website. Although Susan Dentel, coordinator for the grant program and WCC faculty member, says this grant will support all students and encourages anyone to apply.
In addition to funding for students these grants will support rigorous coursework in STEM classes at WCC to ensure students are academically ready to transfer to a university.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity financially, but that’s not even the best part,” said Dentel. “We are building a whole comprehensive program here. When we recruit these students they will be a cohort, they will go through the program together.”
Dentel said applications are due Feb. 5, 2018 and students will be notified of their application status in late February. Students who are chosen for the program will take part in a summer educational program and begin as a cohort in Fall 2018.
“We are developing all the pathways to these programs for smooth articulation, mentoring, all kinds of scaffolding is built in for these students, academically, socially and economically,” said Dentel.
These NSF grants were awarded to other Michigan community colleges and universities. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor being one of them, is conducting research on community college transfer students, which has never been studied before, according to Dentel.
“We have a chance to become the STEM community college of the country,” said Dentel. “We have students from unequal zip codes and it’s not a fair deal. The community college can be that leverage where we can help really prepare them. We are looking at a rigorous curriculum with lots of support and lots of extras in terms of really getting them ready for the experiences at university.”
As Dentel said, WCC does not have a dedicated STEM program, and these grants are able to bring something new here.
“This is the first year so we are learning, but it’s really exciting.” said Dentel.