Harford Community College receives grant to boost STEM education

In an effort to attract and support more students in STEM majors, Harford Community College has been awarded a nearly $650,000 grant to provide scholarships over the next four years.

The National Science Foundation grant for $648,953 is designed to encourage academically talented students (a GPA of 3.0 or higher) with financial need to continue their education and pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, according to Tami Imbierowicz, associate professor of biology in the STEM division at HCC.

Grants of up to $10,000 per year will be available based on need and academic standing for students who major in biology and engineering, the two most popular STEM majors at HCC, Imbierowicz said. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 15. To learn more about these scholarship and the HI-StEM cohort, visit http://www.harford.edu/stem2017.

About 40 percent of the grant will help provide students with stipends to do summer research or complete an internship.

"We are making it financially available to students and giving them the academic support, building the program around them for their success," Imbierowicz said. "The idea is to get more STEM majors, to get more STEM students successful in STEM careers, to increase graduation rates and get them career ready."

STEM fields continue to grow, and academic institutions are trying to encourage students into those study areas, she said.

"This is a growing field all over, on a multiple number of levels," Imbierowicz said. "The job outlook is there. There is competition around the world because other countries are also focused on science, math, engineering and we want students to be competitive in the world market."

Scholarship students will be a part of the HI-StEM (High Intensity Student Engagement Model) program, a cohort learning community led by STEM faculty to create stronger connections and engagement with STEM students through targeted academic programming, according to an HCC news release.

Imbierowicz estimates 10 to 13 students would be part of each three, two-year cohorts over the term of the grant, which translates to scholarship assistance for 36 to 42 students.

When HCC applied for the grant, of the 6,543 students enrolled at the school, 177 were biology majors and 177 were engineering majors. Of those, 44 percent of biology students and 39 percent of engineering students received financial aid, Imbierowicz said. The average unmet need was $4,800, she said.

Working with partners at Aberdeen Proving Ground and local industry, along with experiential learning opportunities such as field trips and course-based research involvement, will be part of the student cohort experience.

The National Science Foundation program focuses on partnerships between academic institutions and industry to promote improvement in the education of STEM areas at the undergraduate and secondary school levels, according to the organization.

"With the award of our second National Science Foundation grant this year, Harford Community College will have the additional tools we need to prepare our academically talented students for high-demand career pathways in STEM areas," HCC President Dianna G. Phillips said in a statement.

"This grant will also leverage the expertise of the faculty here on campus by giving us the resources we need to stay competitive in our ever-changing global economy, further positioning HCC to be a national leader in higher education," Phillips said.

Imbierowicz, who has been at HCC for 17 years, will lead the team of HCC faculty and staff that includes Evan Bucklin, Supawan King, Jaclyn Madden and Sheila Allen, who combine years of teaching experience and research in mathematics, biotechnology, biology, engineering and student development, according to HCC.

"All NSF S-STEM awards are expected to generate knowledge," Kevin Lee, program manager for NSF's S-STEM program, said. "This HCC project's research will address: to what extent does increased student-faculty engagement increase student retention, graduation and transfer rates of biology and engineering students in a community college?"

This is the second NSF grant HCC has received this year. The Business, Education and Computing & Applied Technology Division was recently awarded a $200,000 grant for advanced technological education.

With those grant funds, the college will create an additive manufacturing career pathway for community college and high school students to fill the workforce needs of the growing additive manufacturing field in Northeastern Maryland, HCC officials said.

Additive manufacturing is the process of making objects from 3D model data by joining materials layer by layer, a departure from traditional machining manufacturing.

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