Fairmont State University awarded $749,693 NSF Grant to support low-income STEM Majors

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Fairmont State University has received a six-year grant totaling $749,693 through the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program (S-STEM).

Fairmont State’s project, Bridging the STEM Gap in Appalachia: Engaging with students to iteratively improve faculty practices in support of student success, aims to increase enrollment, retention and graduation of low-income, academically talented students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Degree programs impacted by this grant include B.S. degrees in Computer Science (also a cybersecurity concentration), Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Forensic Science, Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology, Occupational Safety and Surveying and Geomatics Engineering Technology.

Over the course of six years, Fairmont State’s S-STEM program will recruit and directly support 18 low-income undergraduates from their first to fourth years of university education, as well as facilitate opportunities for securing gainful employment upon graduation.

In addition to receiving scholarship support, these students will also participate in special programming both in and out of the classroom to help ensure their success. S-STEM students will be invited to become a part of a STEM Living and Learning Community, and they will interact with their faculty and peer mentors on a regular basis, especially during their freshman year. Partnerships with local and regional industries will provide unique opportunities for the students as well.

“There is a vast STEM gap in Appalachia, and nowhere is that chasm more keenly experienced than in West Virginia,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “While our state is filled with academic talent, many of those young students simply don’t have access to the kinds of opportunities that will allow them to develop as STEM scholars and pursue STEM careers. The S-STEM program – a program that goes beyond scholarships and includes mentorship, student success initiatives, unique learning experiences and career guidance – will go a long way toward filling the opportunity gap for West Virginia students interested in STEM fields. I, along with our expert teacher-mentors who teach in STEM fields here at Fairmont State, are thrilled to be a part of this vital and game-changing project.”

As a part of this program, faculty and peer mentors will receive active and ongoing professional development on topics related to mentoring, advising and student engagement techniques. S-STEM students will be involved in providing feedback to help keep the program student-focused.

The six-year project will be led by Dr. Robert Niichel, Associate Professor of Mathematics, who will be assisted by Dr. Jojo Joseph, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Ms. Abby Chapman, Assistant Professor of Occupational Safety. The project will also be supported by a team of faculty in the College of Science and Technology and staff from across campus.

“We hope our program will change the course of our students’ lives and help us improve our STEM teaching and advising,” Niichel said. “And, I think we have developed a program that can do that.”

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