posted June 3, 2010

Major NSF Grant Funds Scholarships in the Sciences

A major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will enable Hope College to provide additional scholarship support to students from the Holland area who are interested in pursuing careers in science, engineering, technology and mathematics fields.

The $599,835 grant will provide support based on financial need for incoming freshmen beginning in the fall of 2011 and also in the fall of 2012.  The program is part of the college's effort to provide aid to students in the community while helping to address the national and global need for graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

"There is a need for people to pursue careers in STEM fields and to get a work force trained in those areas.  We need more high school students pursuing and completing degrees in science, engineering and mathematics," said Dr. Catherine Mader, a professor of physics at Hope who is co-directing the scholarship program with Dr. Herb Dershem, professor of computer science and director of institutional research.  "Hope is an awesome place to study in those fields, become engaged in doing STEM and graduate well prepared to join the work force.  We need to make it possible for people who might not be considering Hope because of cost to say, 'Hey, Hope is a great fit for me.'"

Each student will receive up to $10,000 per year, renewable up to four years, depending upon their financial need based on the results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Hope College Supplemental Application for Financial Aid (SAF).  The scholarship recipients will also have to demonstrate successful progress towards a STEM degree.  A minimum of seven students will be supported during each of the next two years.

While the focus is on Holland-area students in general who are interested in STEM careers, first priority for the aid will be given to area high school students who are participating in the REACH and Upward Bound programs at the college.

The REACH program is a six-week summer immersion for high school students and teachers engaging in challenging and relevant research projects with Hope's science, engineering and mathematics faculty.  The goal is to provide meaningful learning experiences to the students as they consider their interest in pursuing careers in one of the STEM fields in college, and to involve teachers in research activity that they can in turn apply to their own classroom teaching.  The emphasis has been on recruiting students who come from backgrounds under represented in STEM careers.

Hope College Upward Bound, which is funded through the TRIO program of the U.S. Department of Education, serves 80 high school students from the Holland, West Ottawa and Fennville school districts during both the school year (afternoons and some weekends) and the summer.  The program seeks to generate the skills and motivation necessary for success in education beyond high school from among students from low-income and first-generation families who have the potential to pursue a college education but may lack adequate preparation or support.

Beyond the scholarship aid provided by the NSF award, the college intends to provide additional programmatic support for the students.  The college will establish a series of academic and professional-development events during the students' four-year experience to help inform them of STEM-related activities available to them both on and off campus and to help them learn how to navigate the world of the professional scientist or engineer.  In addition, Hope intends to develop classes specifically for the students through the college's on-going First-Year Seminar program that is geared toward incoming freshmen.

Hope is also seeking additional grant support to expand opportunities to engage in summer research to admitted students who will be freshmen in the fall.  Presently, more than 160 students engage in collaborative research with faculty during the summer, including both the high school students who are participating in REACH and current college students.

Additional information about the award program may be obtained online at www.hope.edu/academic/sstem/.