The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $1 million grant to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to help low-income, high-achieving students earn a STEM degree from the university. The NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program will fund four-year scholarships to WPI and provide academic support to 20 Worcester Public School graduates who pursue bachelor of science degrees in STEM fields.
“As an institution, we’re committed to global impact and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and when we think about how we impact the world, that begins by cultivating the diamonds in our own backyard,” said WPI Director of Multicultural Affairs and Biomedical Engineering Professor Tiffiny Butler, principal investigator on the five-year grant.
The S-STEM grant addresses the nationwide need for well-educated STEM professionals by supporting efforts to recruit, retain, and graduate academically talented students who might otherwise not go to college or who may leave before earning a degree. These include low-income, first-generation, and/or underrepresented groups in STEM who face financial and social barriers to higher education.
“There are real and perceived barriers,” said Kristin Tichenor, who is consulting on this project and serving as co-principal investigator on the grant. “First-generation college students might not have the family exposure to higher education or a strong support network in their home community. They may think they don’t have the academic ability to succeed as STEM majors, or assume they won’t receive sufficient financial support.”
The S-STEM program will lower those barriers by meeting the full demonstrated financial need of Pell-eligible Worcester Public high school students up to the cost of tuition and fees of attending WPI, and through holistic, research-backed programming to help them adapt to undergraduate life and succeed as STEM majors and future professionals. Scholarships will be awarded to 10 first-year applicants from Worcester public high schools who are enrolling in fall 2020 and 10 in fall 2021, and will be renewable for a total of four years.