Science and math departments awarded grant to aid in student enrollment

Millersville University’s School of Science and Mathematics was recently awarded $584,980 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the project, Building the Future: Improving Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented and Financially Disadvantaged Science and Math Students.

A team of five faculty members from the science and mathematics departments including Dr. LaVern R. Whisenton-Davidson, Dr. Dominique D. Dagit, Dr. Robert T. Smith, Dr. Stephanie N. Elzer, and Dr. Natalia M. Dushkina, Physics wrote a proposal requesting this particular grant from the NSF in early Nov. 2007.

The goal of this initiative is to increase the enrollment of under-represented students in the areas of science and mathematics.

Whisenton-Davidson, who will be directing the program, said that the project is mainly designed for “under-represented, financially-disadvantaged, and students of color who are studying in the S-STEM discipline.”

S-STEM stands for Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

She further stated that the grant would provide tuition, mentoring, workshops, co-ops, and other services to 28 students who qualify.

The first group to receive this grant will be at least 12 sophomores in Jan. 2009.

The second group will be 16 freshmen in fall of 2009, a total of 28 students for this program.

These students who are selected will continue to receive $5,000 annually during their career, as long as they are majoring in a science or mathematics field.

If a student decides to change his or her major into a non-STEM discipline, then his or her award money will be given to an under-represented sophomore STEM major who will meet the requirements.

The committee choosing the 28 students will include university faculty members from each STEM discipline along with a faculty member from the chemistry and earth science departments.

Among the requirements for sophomores are at least a 2.75 GPA and two letters of recommendation from faculty, Dr. Rene Munoz, the Director of Foundation and Government Support said. “High School rank, SAT scores, GPA of 3.0, and letters of recommendation from their teachers” are the requisites for freshmen.

Along with the above requirements, the student interested must fill out an application online, which will be ready the first week of October, showing desire for this scholarship, major in a STEM discipline, show financial need, and must be under-represented.

For instance, “in the field of computer science, women are under-represented. Across the board, students of color are underrepresented in areas of science and mathematics,” Whisenton-Davidson explained.

This program encourages students who are financially struggling to continue a higher education and in fields that are very much in need of more people.

Therefore, the goal of this initiative is to increase the number of students enrolling in the STEM disciplines and to make the student population of these areas more diverse.
“Those students who receive the scholarship must continue to maintain a 2.75 GPA, cannot work more than 15 hours a week at a job, and attend regular workshops, meetings” Munoz said.

“It’s all science and technology; that’s what the world is about. If we can’t get more students to study these areas, we can’t compete with the rest of the world,” said Whisenton-Davidson.

“We are need of people in areas of computer science, biotechnology, computer technology, and if we don’t have people in these areas, we are going to fall behind.”

Her statement is the basis for No Child Left Behind and programs such as that.
To make sure students in the U.S. are compatible with those around the world.
“It is a great honor to actually receive the grant from the NSF because the selection process takes 8-9 months and is extremely grueling,” Whisenton-Davidson said.

“The proposal must be excellent and approved by all the members of the NSF board to be approved.”