Felician University has been awarded a $638,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
The Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) grant is the largest academic grant ever received by Felician and will be used to fund the Science and Information Technology Scholars or SAINTS program: Recruiting, Retaining, and Graduating Biology, Computer Science, and Cybersecurity Students to Meet Workforce Needs Project.
The grant is expected to bring many benefits to students according to Dr. George Abaunza, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, who says “Felician is especially proud about, and grateful for, this award because based on the criteria for the grant, sixty-percent of the funding has to be put directly to use in scholarships for qualified students.” Dr. Abaunza adds that the grant team is confident that “this relief of financial burden, along with access to specialized programs designed to boost the academic and social aspects of the learning experience, will ensure the success of the SAINTS program.”
Felician University, a Hispanic and Minority Serving Institution, was awarded the five-year NSF grant that will deliver the SAINTS Program to assist Felician students studying in the STEM disciplines, the majority of whom are underrepresented in STEM fields. Biology Professor and Associate Dean of Natural Sciences Dr. Patrick Weir, who is the Principal Investigator for the grant, says “This grant, the product of a superb team, is an exciting opportunity for Felician University and our biology, computer science, and cybersecurity majors. Many of these students might not otherwise have the chance to develop their talents without this funding. We look forward to working with these students in helping them earn their degrees and become members of the next generation in the STEM fields.”
The SAINTS program has three primary objectives. First, to recruit and enroll 16 students (“Scholars”) majoring in biology, computer science and/or cybersecurity. Second, to retain and graduate at least 81% of Scholars. And third, to prepare and enable at least 81% of Scholars to enter the STEM workforce or STEM graduate programs within six months of their graduation. The project will also investigate the effectiveness of the Integrative Academic Advising (IAA) model, pioneered at Felician by Dr. Dolores Henchy, in increasing student retention and completion, generating new knowledge to benefit small Hispanic- and Minority-serving institutions. Information and results will be broadly disseminated to expand the current research based on best practices in building student-faculty relationships to increase retention, persistence, student success, and placement into STEM careers or STEM graduate programs.
Dr. Charity Dacey, Assistant Professor and Associate Dean of Education at Felician, who also working on this grant says “I am excited to work collaboratively with this gifted team to assist our Felician University students crossing boundaries, taking risks and achieving goals in STEM fields that they might not have previously envisioned. This funding opportunity will increase the number of women and students from all under-represented groups meet the dynamic challenges of the 21st century in these critical STEM fields.”
The SAINTS Program will recruit and enroll students (“Scholars”) majoring in biology, computer science and/or cybersecurity, targeting low-income, academically talented high school students, who are traditionally underrepresented (particularly Hispanic, female, first-generation) in STEM fields. Scholarships will be provided to SAINTS Scholars, along with extended support through a second-year experience course in addition to a first-year experience course, multi-year research experiences, integrative academic advising from faculty, embedded peer tutoring, a formalized internship and mentorship program, and new community building efforts to help students build social networks.
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