UA Little Rock receives $2 million grant to support STEM efforts

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 115 views 

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been awarded a nearly $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enhance teaching and learning and to promote student success in undergraduate STEM education.

This is the largest grant UA Little Rock has ever received from the National Science Foundation.

The $1,999,986 five-year grant from the NSF will be used to provide support for faculty and students in the Donaghey College of STEM with a specific focus on supporting students from historically underserved groups.

“A strong STEM workforce is critical for our country,” said Dr. Lawrence Whitman, dean of the Donaghey College of STEM. “To build and sustain a strong STEM workforce, we must educate students for next-generation careers. To properly educate these students, we must transform our education. I am beyond pleased to see that this funding will continue the excellent work of our faculty. We are grateful to the National Science Foundation and their support of this transformational project.”

The interdisciplinary team led by Dr. Mark Baillie, assistant professor of chemistry, is a collaboration with faculty from the STEM Education Center (Dr. Michael Moore, director of undergraduate research and mentoring), the School of Education (Dr. Lundon Pinneo, assistant professor) and the Office of the Provost (Dr. David Montague, associate vice chancellor for student success).

“Our main focus is to increase the number of underserved students who successfully complete STEM courses,” Pinneo said. “We want to identify current barriers for faculty and improve support systems so campus-wide we can close the equity gap.”

Students from historically underserved populations, first-generation students, and Pell Grant recipients are likely to encounter barriers to their success in their lecture-based STEM courses. Baillie says that traditional teaching methods are often a barrier to students reaching their potential.

“People’s journeys through education are very different,” Baillie said. “If you can create a classroom environment that gives everyone the opportunity to engage, then everyone will learn and progress.”

The grant also provides a $975 stipend for 605 students to participate in the Learning Assistant Program. The assistants will provide peer learning support for more than 9,000 of their classmates over the five years of the grant.

The stipends will allow greater access for many students who previously couldn’t afford to volunteer for this leadership role. By the end of the project, UA Little Rock plans to support approximately 250 learning assistants per year.

The grant also provides up to $5,000 a year for five years for faculty and administrators in the Donaghey College of STEM to implement ideas that emerge from a Community of Transformation.

“We want to emphasize how the departments and programs are encouraging their own teachers,” Moore said. “This is a multi-prong approach by the whole university on how to support a successful culture of teaching. It speaks to the credibility of the support we have across the university and from our partners. This is a win for UA Little Rock.”