Keene State Wins Grant for Low Income STEM Scholarships | Local News

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This time next year, a group of seven students will start at Keene State College, the first recipients of a new scholarship designed to help students from low-income families pursue studies in chemistry and biology.

Seven more freshmen will join them the following year with scholarships funded by a competitive grant of nearly $ 650,000 from the National Science Foundation. The money will also provide paid research positions for these 14 students over the next five years, as well as a strong campus-wide support system to help them complete their studies and hopefully find a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“One of the cool things about the grant is that it really requires you to be collaborative with all the offices on campus,” said Brian Anderson, chair of the chemistry department, who is leading the new program. “Because they want student support, you need admissions, you need financial aid, academic counseling, tutoring services.”

Loren Launen, a biology professor who also worked on Keene State’s application for the NSF Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) scholarship program, said the new scholarships would make biology and chemistry degrees more accessible to students who would not otherwise. were able to study these areas in demand.

“It will also provide them with the ability to quickly and sustainably connect to undergraduate research in the natural sciences,” she said in an email. “Students who have to work while they are in school often work in fields unrelated to their education, but our funding will allow us to financially compensate students for research – they will be scientists, not just students. sciences, during their studies. . “

Keene State is in the early stages of recruiting students for S-STEM scholarships, Anderson said, and plans to launch a webpage for the program soon and distribute information brochures to high school counselors. and science teachers.

“So we’re really using this fall to recruit, hopefully get people to come and visit campus, see what we’re doing and what we can offer,” he said.

Prospective Keene State students, who are expected to contact the college to determine if they are eligible for the new scholarships, will not have to submit any additional documents to the school outside of the normal admission process, Anderson said.

“We want to keep it as easy as possible for the students,” he said. “… So you have to apply, show an interest in chemistry or biology, and then also complete your financial aid, as that is what determines the level of scholarship you are eligible for.”

S-STEM scholarships will cost an average of $ 7,000 to $ 8,000 per year, with a maximum of $ 10,000 per year for a student’s four years at Keene State. These scholarships will be in addition to any other financial assistance they receive, Anderson said. For the current school year, the tuition and average fees for a New Hampshire resident in Keene State are $ 27,834 and $ 38,190 for out-of-state students.

Anderson added that many state students who might be interested in Keene State’s S-STEM program would also be eligible, based on family income, for Federal Pell Grants, qualifying them for tuition. free via the Granite guarantee. This program is open to all New Hampshire residents who enroll in any of the state’s public university system schools and aims to bridge the gap between federal aid through the Pell Grant and tuition fees from the state.

“And so New Hampshire students will be close to a free ride to Keene State with us. [through the S-STEM scholarship],” he said.

Keene State first applied for an S-STEM grant in 2019, but the National Science Foundation did not approve the request, Anderson said. According to the NSF, there are 656 active S-STEM programs nationwide, including six in New Hampshire (three at UNH in Durham and one each at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge and Colby-Sawyer College in New London) .

After receiving the initial rejection, Anderson said a team of Keene State faculty members spent about nine months reworking the application, including adding biology to the original proposal, which only included chemistry.

“We can encompass more students and we are working very well with biology,” he said. “And most students these days are really at the interface of interest in biology and chemistry, anyway, and [there are] many careers in the region. So it worked really well for us.

Keene State submitted its request in April 2020 and learned in March that its request for $ 648,397 had been approved. About 60 percent of these funds, or $ 390,000, are related to scholarships, while the remainder will go to student support, such as tutoring and research positions. And while the scholarships will go to a group of seven students each for the next two years, Anderson said the additional supports funded by the grant will be available to all biology and chemistry students in Keene State.

“So they would still benefit from the tutoring, they would benefit from paid research experiences in their first year,” he said. “So anybody who comes into chemistry or biology can benefit from everything, and then there are these selected seven who get the scholarship. “

And as the scholarship program benefits Keene State science students, faculty members will also use it to research the best ways to help first-generation and low-income students earn science degrees and earn. pursue a career in these fields.

“We very intentionally offer students a research experience during their first and second year of college, and work closely with faculty, from the second they step onto campus,” Anderson said. “And what we’re sort of emitting is that by doing that, we’re going to help them with their self-identity as a scientist, their persistence in the major.”

This type of research has been done at larger institutions, Anderson said, but rarely, if ever, at a small public liberal arts school like Keene State. Faculty members working on the project will report annually to the National Science Foundation, he said, and present their findings internally at Keene State and at regional and national conferences.

And while the research portion of the project has yet to begin, Anderson said he has a strong slant on what the study will find.

“I mean, we see it all the time but we haven’t really studied it: you get the student in the research lab, and that’s when the bulb starts to light up. “he said, adding that research labs offer more opportunities than classrooms. for students and teachers to collaborate. “… We are all working on it together, and the knowledge to solve the problem can come from anywhere.” “

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