National Science Foundation STEM grant extended three years to encourage success for community college students

Oct 25, 2022

The National Science Foundation has awarded Houston Community College and San Jacinto College nearly $1.5 million to continue a joint project to promote students engaging in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics programs.

The grant named Harris County Community College Alliance – under the umbrella of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation – extends the program three additional years beginning Oct. 1 to continue engaging students in STEM disciplines. It also provides peer and faculty mentoring, summer research internships, an annual research symposium and STEM seminars.

“The alliance helps students connect to develop their own STEM identities and provides networking skills with professionals in the workplace,” said Jeff Stear, HCC engineering program director and co-principal investigator. “That encourages a determined mindset for students and significantly increases their confidence in transferring from community college to four-year STEM degree programs.”

The first year of the project that began in 2019 developed three communities at HCC. The Community of Scholars focuses on academics, the Community of Experience focuses on experience-based teaching and learning and the Community of Research focuses on providing research skills and opportunities.

More than 300 HCC students have earned stipends from $500 to $5,000 during the three years of the program so far, with more than $400,000 awarded. Stipends received are based on points students earn for participating in a variety of events and activities.

“For me, the program removes limits,” said Candice Foster, a stipend recipient in her first year at HCC, who is hard at work pursuing STEM subjects. “It helps students think beyond traditional career paths.”

Foster is targeting a career as a medical dosimetrist – a key member of hospital radiation oncology teams, helping providers design, generate and measure radiation doses needed to treat patients. She hopes to train at University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Stear noted that a highly committed core of nine outstanding STEM faculty members at HCC drive the program’s success. The team has held weekly meetings with students on topics such as doing research projects and socially responsible STEM practices. The educators have also placed students in summer research experiences with faculty at leading Texas universities such as Rice University, University of Houston, University of Houston-Downtown, Prairie View A&M and University of Texas at Tyler.

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