posted June 10, 2010

Grant from Exxon Mobil Supports Schools’ Participation in REACH

A grant from Exxon Mobil to the West Ottawa Public Schools and Zeeland Public Schools is expanding the districts' opportunity to have teachers and students learn about the natural and applied sciences as participants in the summer-research program at Hope College.

The $10,000 grant is supporting the participation of four students in Project REACH (Research Experiences Across Cultures at Hope) this summer.  The award was presented at Hope on Monday, June 7, by Beth Snyder, program officer for ExxonMobil's U.S. educational and environmental contributions programs, with Matt Van Zanten, representing J&H Oil, a local Mobil branded fuels marketing distributor.

It is the second year in a row that Exxon Mobil has supported participation in the REACH program by area students.  Last summer, 2009, Exxon Mobil provided support for two students from West Ottawa.  This summer, Rachel Delinger and Travis McGeehan from Zeeland East and Emily Cheng and Matthew Harder from West Ottawa will be supported by the grant.

The REACH program is a six-week 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 (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) 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 underrepresented in STEM careers.

In the first four summers since the program began in 2006, a total of 42 students and three teachers have participated in the program.  Project REACH was initially funded through support to the college from the National Science Foundation and internal sources, with support continuing through a four-year grant to Hope from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in the spring of 2008.  Project REACH is expected to include 21 students and three teachers this summer, including not only from West Ottawa and Zeeland East but also from Holland High, Zeeland West, Black River, Hamilton, Fennville, Grandville High and City High in Grand Rapids.

Project REACH reflects the college's ongoing commitment to continuing and expanding its long-running emphasis on student-faculty research as a teaching tool.  In addition to working on projects during the school year, regularly more than 160 students conduct research full-time for several weeks each summer with faculty mentors.  Those participating in summer research at the college include not only Hope students and the Project REACH participants but also students from other colleges and universities supported through National Science Foundation "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" (NSF-REU) grants awarded to departments within the natural and applied sciences at Hope.

Hope has received recognition in a variety of ways for its model of teaching through collaborative faculty-student research. For the past eight years, since the category debuted, the "America's Best Colleges" guide published by "U.S. News and World Report" has included Hope on its listing of fewer than three dozen institutions that it cites as exceptional for their emphasis on undergraduate research and creative projects. The guide also includes Hope among the top 100 national liberal arts colleges in the U.S.

Among other indicators, Hope has consistently held more grants through the NSF-REU program, five this year, than any other liberal arts college in the country; Among all institutions nationwide, including major research universities, fewer than a dozen hold more of the grants.  According to Research Crossroads, Hope has received more federal grants since 1992 than any undergraduate institution in Michigan and more than all but six Ph.D.-granting universities.  Hope is the only college or university in the country to have received "Beckman Scholar Award" support for student research from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation of Irvine, Calif., since the foundation began the program in 1998.