Don May, professor of Engineering & Physics, received $1 million over five years from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math program to launch the FLC Engineering Scholars Program. ESP aims to identify and engage academically talented, Pell-eligible students enrolled as Engineering majors and support them as they pursue their degrees. ESP is also a tool for local and national education communities to generate best practices for supporting STEM students.
The first cohort for ESP includes 13 scholars, and they will remain in the program until they graduate. Awards for the scholars range from $5,000 to $10,000 per year, making ESP one of the highest dollar awards on campus. May said the award is a chance for students who need financial support to thrive while obtaining their degree.
“Historically, financially needy students have had to work during school to make ends meet, sometimes, more than one job” says May. “And in the Engineering major where the work load is very high, it’s a hard row to hoe. So, this frees them up and they have more time to concentrate on their studies.”
In addition to financial support, each ESP student is matched to one of the three faculty mentors for tutoring and other traditional academic support activities. What may be the program’s greatest benefits, however, are the extracurricular high impact experiences, including summer research with faculty, internships, professional development field trips, and international experiences.
The idea is to get them understanding what it means to be an engineer, what opportunities are out there, and get them a little bit of networking exposure.
May expects ESP to improve retention and graduation rates for Engineering students. With 50 percent of those enrolled in Engineering being students of color, the program is also expected to advance the understanding of how student support activities contribute to improved retention and graduation for Native American students.
ESP scholars will participate in both formal and informal program activities designed to build person-to-person connections that support persistence to graduation. Scholar selection allows students with grade point averages less than 3.0, but who demonstrate academic talent based on alternative criteria.
“There are a lot of other ways to impact retention that extend beyond the classroom. These interventions show higher persistence to graduation as well as preparing students to enter the workforce after college,” says May. “The goal is that they will benefit from all these support services and they will be more successful.”