GVSU receives $1 million grant to support STEM students

Photo of student writing equations on a white board.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

A new project at Grand Valley will financially help academically talented, low-income students seeking an education in science or engineering, while providing them with mentoring and hands-on learning and research opportunities. The project received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program (S-STEM).

Retaining and Inspiring Students in Science and Engineering (RISE), will create a set of progressively increasing four-year scholarships for at least 50 Grand Valley students who may not otherwise be able to afford a college education.

RISE will also immerse scholarship recipients in a cohort with faculty mentors, and provide them with experiential learning opportunities, such as summer research and internships, and career preparation tactics.

RISE will build on a previously successful S-STEM program at Grand Valley called “Mentoring, Academic Support and Scholarships for Science Students” (MAS4). While MAS4 targeted juniors and seniors, RISE will offer scholarship opportunities to students in all grade levels at Grand Valley, with an emphasis on incoming first-year students.

“Research shows that up to 60 percent of students who begin their freshman year as STEM majors leave the STEM disciplines in their first two years,” said Deborah Herrington, professor of chemistry and associate department chair, and RISE co-principal investigator. “This attrition from STEM is highest for low-income and underrepresented students. Many students who change their major are capable of success in a STEM field, but for financial and time reasons, they change to disciplines that may appear to require less time and less structure.”

Through an in-depth evaluation, the RISE project team will investigate the structures of the program that help support student retention and graduation, road blocks to graduation for students coming from low-income households, and student perceptions of the value of the different elements of RISE’s experiential learning opportunities.

Herrington said the project team is working to open the application process in May with the program beginning in fall 2018.

The RISE project will be co-led by Herrington; Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing; Charlie Standridge, associate dean of the Padnos College; and Jerry Johnson, associate professor of social work.

Various departments at Grand Valley will provide support during the development and implementation of RISE, including Financial Aid, Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, Career Center, Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence, and Registrar’s Office.

RISE will also enlist area community colleges, such as Grand Rapids Community College, Northwestern Michigan College, and Muskegon Community College, to help the project team identify potential RISE scholars at their institutions and provide mentoring for those students before they enroll at Grand Valley.

For more information, contact Herrington at [email protected]