New Grant To Support STEM Program

Sacred Heart University’s School of Computer Science & Engineering recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund scholarships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for those from underprivileged communities.

Over the course of six years, 24 students total will each receive up to $9,500 in each of their four undergraduate years from this grant, according to a SHU press release. It will be divided among eight students from the current freshman class and eight students from each of the following two freshman classes.

“It sounded too good to be true to them and they kept asking questions about ‘What is the catch?’ We assured them there is no condition, just to stay in the program with a 3.0 GPA,” said Prof. Tolga Kaya, the director of SHU’s engineering programs and head of the grant application.

“It will help us attract talented students who would otherwise not be able to come to Sacred Heart,” said Dr. Robert McCloud, Associate Dean of the Welch College of Business & Technology and director of SHU’s computer science programs.

The grant acquisition process took several months with assistance from other university offices.

“[The] university’s Office of Sponsored Programs helped us with the grant writing process,” Kaya said. “We had to collect lots of institutional data to make a case that our students would benefit from this scholarship program.”

The NSF website reported that the proposals they receive must articulate and explain the characteristics and academic needs of the student population that will receive the scholarships. Proposers must also provide a strong case for why the field that the population is in is a critical need in the United States.

“We will also create specialized mentoring and tutoring programs for the scholars as well as summer paid internship opportunities at our local community partners as STEM mentors,” Kaya said.

Additionally, the goal of this program is to better prepare future STEM employees that are disadvantaged and educate them on academic success, retention, transfer, graduation and careers, according to SHU’s press release.

“Ultimately, the S-STEM program seeks to increase the number of low-income students who graduate with a S-STEM eligible degree and contribute to the American innovation economy with their STEM knowledge,” according to the NSF website.

Each freshman applicant submitted two recommendation letters, one personal essay to show their interest in the scholarship and the field of technology, as well as their transcript. According to Kaya, they are currently in the process of being interviewed and the winners will be announced before the end of September.

“Due to the impact the technology fields are making on our society, having excess funds helps give students the extra resources to succeed,” said senior Alyssa Dunn, an information technology major. “I think that this opportunity will not only grow the program but will help certain individuals follow their passion.”

SHU is taking this grant one step further, according to McCloud, by trying to match funds through the state or corporate community.

These scholarships will help distinguish students from their peers once they complete their undergraduate degrees, which will ultimately aid them in the job market, according to Kaya.

“Just imagine putting this in your resume. You receive a competitive federal grant that helps you with tuition but also helps you improve your social and professional network,” Kaya said. “Students will find jobs, in fact, they will most likely get multiple job offers when they graduate, without any problem.”

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