National Science Foundation grants go to low-income Arkansans who study STEM

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 291 views 

University of Arkansas professor Paul Adams and Djamali Muhoza, a PhD student in cell and molecular biology.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $999,847 in grant funding to the University of Arkansas’ Path to Graduation Program, the UA announced Friday (Dec. 8).

The program supports low-income students, especially those from rural regions of Arkansas, seeking degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields.

Annually renewable scholarships of $4,500, or $5,500 for Honors College students, will be given to two groups of 18 STEM students each year starting next fall. Funding will be given out between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2022, according to the UA.

In addition to scholarships, students will participate in an in-residence summer bridge program, shared housing, academic success advising, faculty and peer mentoring, and on-campus or industry-based research opportunities, according to the UA.

Program director Paul Adams, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, will help to welcome the students when they first arrive on campus and will contribute to ongoing support, in addition to reporting on their progress throughout their career at the UA.

“Currently, the state of Arkansas is not able to meet STEM labor demands,” Honors College Dean Lynda Coon said in a press release. “This grant is an important first step in training the next generation of scientists and engineers from throughout the state and beyond. … This program will specifically target those areas of Arkansas where there are many minority and first-generation students but few opportunities to pursue STEM education.”

The Path to Graduation program is an extension of the Honors College Path Program, established in 2014 to recruit academically successful high school students from underrepresented populations and to help them excel at the UA. According to the school, more than 40% of participants have joined the Honors College to date, and an estimated 100% of the first group are on schedule to graduate next May.

“We’ve done well with recruiting students to Path in years past, just by offering academic mentoring and social support, and our students have flourished here,” Terrance Boyd, director of recruitment and the Path Program, said in the release. Boyd said the addition of scholarship money will help expand the program and “help us recruit students who might otherwise seek opportunities outside of Arkansas.”

Thanks to lead gifts from Honors College Dean Emeritus Bob McMath and his wife Linda, Nick and Carolyn Cole, and Lee and Beverly Bodenhamer, the Honors College to date has raised more than $600,000 to fund scholarships for Path students, according to the UA.

“The really great thing about this grant is that all of our Path students will benefit,” Dean Coon said in the release. “NSF support will take funding for our students in STEM fields to new levels, while Path students pursuing degrees in business, education, and the arts and humanities will continue to benefit from privately funded scholarships.”