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MSMU Receives NSF Grant to Foster STEM Transfer Path for FCC and MC Students

science feature

The National Science Foundation has awarded Mount St. Mary’s University (MSMU), in partnership with Frederick Community College (FCC) and Montgomery College (MC), an $899,926 Scholarships in Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (S-STEM) program grant that provides transfer pathways and scholarships for community college students to complete their bachelor’s degree at MSMU. The NSF S-STEM program aims to increase the number of low-income students earning degrees in STEM fields.

“I am grateful for the NSF’s support of this partnership with our neighboring community colleges that will directly increase the number and diversity of STEM graduates who are prepared to enter the workforce and meet regional and national workforce needs,” said MSMU President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D. “We are fortunate to have a top-notch team that developed and will staff this initiative, led by Dr. Rosina Bolen with the support of Dean Kraig Sheetz.”

"Partnerships like these are vital to the success of community college students in STEM careers, and help build the pipeline of a diverse workforce," said MC President DeRionne Pollard. "Montgomery College is grateful for the generous support of the National Science Foundation in furthering pathways to STEM careers by our students. I am confident that our students will be well-prepared to attend MSMU with these supports in place." 

FCC President Elizabeth Burmaster also expressed gratitude to the NSF and pride in the college’s STEM students. “Frederick Community College offers strong STEM programs, and we are proud of our many students who excel while earning this critical education and training,” Burmaster said. “We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for providing funding to help FCC students transfer to Mount St. Mary’s University and complete their bachelor’s degree in a STEM-related field.”

The grant builds on MSMU’s Mount Opportunities for Success in Science (MOSS) program, which was also funded by the NSF and is led by Associate Professor Kathryn Dye, Ph.D. The MOSS program, begun in 2016, supports Mount students with scholarships and activities designed to build a community of learners, cultivate academic achievement, and promote career development.

The new grant extends these opportunities to FCC and MC students through the C3STEM (Community Colleges Collaborating in STEM) program.  Under C3STEM 27 community college students who want to major in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, environmental science, math, computer science and cybersecurity will receive both a $10,000 annual scholarship and a comprehensive program designed to support degree completion and placement in a STEM career. Sixty percent of the NSF funding will go to student scholarships.

“MSMU faculty will collaborate with the faculty at FCC and MC to provide extensive pre-transfer support to the C3STEM scholars that will increase transfer capital and student engagement, leading to a successful transition to MSMU. Once at MSMU, students will receive support similar to that offered by the MOSS Program focused on cohort building, intensive faculty mentoring and career development opportunities,” said Assistant Professor Rosina Bolen, Ph.D., who leads the C3STEM team.

An aspect of the program that Bolen is particularly excited about is the opportunity to work with the community college partners to find ways to make it easier for students to transfer and to better prepare them for success at a four-year university. “We are thrilled that the grant will benefit the 27 students and more broadly will provide us with valuable lessons that will facilitate the transfer process for future students as well,” Bolen said. “The MOSS Program has retained 97% of program participants and graduated 100% of the first cohort last spring. We are hoping for similar success with the C3STEM program.

The C3STEM students will be recruited in three cohorts over the next three years.

In addition to Bolen and Sheetz, dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, other members of the team that sought the grant are Assistant Professor of Chemistry Isaac Mills, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Math Athar Rafiq and Jeffrey Simmons, Ph.D., executive director of strategic planning and institutional effectiveness. They were aided by Grants Manager Kathy Criasia and Senior Accounting Manager Nichol Moeller. FCC is represented by Professor of Mathematics Dina Yagodich and Sandy McCombe Waller, associate vice president and dean of Health, Business, Technology and Science. Montgomery College’s members of the team are Professor of Biology Aubrey Smith, Ph.D., and Professor of Mathematics Franklin Gavilañez.

For more information, visit msmary.edu/c3stem. Applications for the program will be available later this month and will be due December 15.