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September 27, 2019

Building inclusive communities and driving innovation in STEMscience, technology, engineering, mathematics are two of the core values ​​of Arizona State University. The Science Foundation Arizona Center for STEM reinforces this legacy through its KickStarter program.

As part of the National Science Foundation-funded program, ASU’s SFAz Center for STEM, led by Director Caroline VanIngen-Dunn, identifies Hispanic two-year institutions eligible for federal funding and helps faculty develop curricula. competitive research proposals in STEM education. Over the past three months, the program has helped seven Hispanic-serving institutions receive more than $5.5 million in awards aimed at strengthening STEM initiatives within their communities.

KickStarter Cohort 3 faculty and staff at National Science Foundation headquarters. Photo courtesy of Science Foundation Arizona Center for STEM at ASU.
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Data collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows that, as early as eighth grade, Hispanic students are less likely to participate in STEM programs due to a lack of resources and equipment in schools. , reduced access to early education and low STEM performance expectations. The KickStarter program aims to help Hispanic-serving institutions with at least 25% Hispanic student enrollment obtain grants to overcome these barriers.

“KickStarter has provided us with a repeatable path to organize and strategize on NSF and other federal grants,” said Phil Lister, chair of biology and biotechnology at Central New Mexico Community College. “With such a large institution, it has been very easy to have projects and goals living in silos, but the development of a cross-departmental team has alleviated some of the old fragmentation of goals and grant proposals. “

Since its inauguration, the KickStarter program has helped community colleges receive prizes totaling more than $10 million. These funds reach 1,017 students, 341 faculty, 35 industry partners, 21 K-12 partners, and 26 post-secondary partners at subsidized community colleges.

Funding supports STEM scholarships, new courses, curriculum development, new classroom equipment, faculty professional development, culturally relevant practices, and undergraduate research experiences.

Professors can seek funding to create webinars and workshops on training, assessing, planning, and developing STEM team proposals to conduct more meaningful research and better interact with their students.

“It is very rewarding to see our work reach people across the country and empower young people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to engage in STEM learning and research, access to those experiences,” said Cynthia Pickering, research program manager at ASU’s Center for STEM.

Some NSF grants that have been funded include integrating research, mentorship, and industry collaborations to improve STEM recruitment and retention at Phoenix College; Cybersecurity opportunities and methods that support student access and success at Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida; and increasing the student biotechnology pipeline at Los Angeles Mission College. The STEM-Mia project, which provides support for low-income STEM students at Miami Dade College, also received support.

Seven institutions recently awarded grants in 2019 through the SFAz Center for STEM at ASU, including the University of New Mexico Taos, Central New Mexico Community College, Southwestern Community College, Pima Community College, West Hills Coalinga Community College, Central Arizona College and Mountain View College.

One of the recent awards will be sponsoring a three-day national conference at ASU in the summer of 2020. The NSF-sponsored conference aims to identify the unique challenges rural Hispanic institutions face in developing effective STEM programs with strong student enrolment. By bringing together leading faculty, staff, students and community partners, the conference will lay the groundwork for potential solutions that can improve the quality of life and economic success of people in these communities.

Pickering believes ASU’s Center for STEM’s work with community colleges can have a global impact, as STEM students are better prepared to thrive in a four-year institution and in the job market.

“The work that ASU’s SFAz Center for STEM does with community colleges results in funding for STEM programs that advance inclusiveness, access, and student-centered practices at these institutions,” said Pickering said. “These results align directly with ASU’s mission to include and support students from all economic, social, and cultural backgrounds in the classroom and in their communities.”

Going forward, ASU’s SFAz Center for STEM aims to effectively implement existing scholarships, work with more Hispanic-serving institutions, measure the direct impacts of NSF grants, and publish the results. results of their work.

Written by Maya Shrikant

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