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Monday, May 17, 2010

National Science Foundation Awards $996,303 STEM Grant to SU

SALISBURY, MD---The National Science Foundation has awarded Salisbury University $996,303 to increase the number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.  The grant is the largest NSF award in SU history, and includes initial funding of $637,695 for three years and $358,608 for two additional years based on project progress.

The grant will fund a new Bridges for SUCCESS Program (SUCCESS meaning Salisbury University’s Connections to Careers for Every STEM Student).  The program is designed to increase STEM graduates by 75 percent within five years.

“On average over the past five years, 5 percent of SU’s total undergraduate class majored in chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and earth science,” said Dr. Karen L. Olmstead, dean of the Richard A. Henson School of Science and Technology.  “We hope to increase enrollment in these majors to 9 percent through better recruitment and retention of these students.”

To accomplish this, SU plans to recruit more students interested in studying STEM fields from high schools, Wor-Wic Community College and Chesapeake College.  The University also will focus on increasing retention and graduation rates in STEM programs, and enhancing the marketing of STEM majors.

Olmstead and Dr. Tom Jones, former SU provost and current STEM coordinator, are principal investigators on the project.  Contributing faculty include Drs. Brent Zaprowski of the Earth Science program, Joseph Howard of Physics, Anita Brown of Chemistry, Sang-Eon Park of Computer Science and Steven Hetzler of Mathematics.  Assessment will be performed by SU’s Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON).

One reviewer called SU’s grant application “a well-written proposal by an institution with a good track record for improving STEM education.”

Some of the STEM-related initiatives happening on campus include the creation of a Living-Learning Community for 35 first-year students studying STEM fields.  The University also established a STEM advisory board and steering committee to engage regional school systems, higher education institutions, economic development offices, and employers in guiding STEM initiatives on campus.  SU faculty and students are supporting STEM initiatives of regional school districts and will host the first Maryland Science Olympiad tournament on the Eastern Shore in spring 2011.

“SU has been aggressively responding to national attention on graduating more students in critical STEM areas,” Jones said.  “Our students will be able to enter the U.S. workforce and pursue STEM careers, which are key to Maryland’s innovation-based economy.”

Under Olmstead’s leadership, the Henson School has increased external grants and contracts funding from under $1 million in FY07 to nearly $3 million in FY10.  This award was made possible through NSF’s STEM Talent Enhancement Program, which funded only 10 percent of grant proposals this year.

Other recent NSF grants awarded to Henson School faculty include $358,000 to Dr. Ryan Taylor and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin to study amphibian behavioral ecology in Panama and $75,000 to Drs. Stephen Hetzler and Robert Tardiff to integrate sonification techniques into calculus instruction.  Dr. Jill Caviglia-Harris of the Economics and Finance Department also was awarded $530,000 to continue her study of deforestation and land use in the Amazon with faculty from North Carolina State University and the University of California-Santa Barbara.

For more information, call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at http://www.salisbury.edu/henson/STEM/.



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