Today: Jun 17, 2024

University receives $3.2 million NSF grant

Jay’Mi Vazquez- News Editor

The university has received a five-year $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to retain and recruit racial groups currently underrepresented in studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  

Provost and vice president of academic affairs, Robert Prezant said that the goal of the grant is straight forward.  

“The goal is to encourage and increase more students who are underrepresented in the stem disciplines to go into the stem fields, to stay in the stem fields, to graduate in the stem fields and then to go on into a career in the stem fields,” Prezant said. 

STEM diversity is a topic that has been studied for decades, Prezant said. He hopes this grant better diversifies the disciplines and presents better opportunities for students.  

“We should have the representation among our different groups in the United States. That should be reflected in the stem disciplines, it’s not yet. But that is the intent of the group,” Prezant said. 

“There is a difference in graduation rates of the underrepresented minorities when compared to the White or Asian students. So, we want to get these groups to have the same [graduation] percentage,” Professor of Mathematics Klay Kruczek said.  

The goal of this grant is beneficial to the math side of the STEM disciplines. It is mainly focused on aiding students to complete their math requirements quickly, Kruczek said.  

“One of the biggest stumbling blocks is students mathematical preparation. A lot of stem majors require a lot more of mathematics, especially a physics degree might require calculus. So, students have to go through a set of classes. So, we are trying to get students to be successful in math in a higher placement,” Kruczek said. 

Prezant explained how the university is the leading school in this grant. Central, Eastern, and Western Connecticut State University are partnered with the university.  

“Were in partnership with the three other Connecticut state universities, Central, Eastern and Western, but we are the lead,” Prezant said.  

“We’re going to get a bigger cut of it because we manage the award,” Prezant said. 

Although it took over a year to receive the grant, Prezant said himself and everyone else is excited about the grant’s opportunities for students.  Funding of the five-year grant was put into effect on Oct. 1, 2023 and is planned to be renewed annually, Prezant said.  

“We are funding students out of the grant money, mainly focusing on the first two years of college,” Kruczek said. 

The first two years will be similar to the four cohorts that are planned with the grant, Kruczek said. 

“Students will be offered seminars where people from industry and some faculty talk about the research. There will be some peer mentors to help with tutoring. And then in the later years of college, students will work with research mentors,” Kruczek said.   

“The work of the grant is very intentional recruitment, to help diversify the population. There are also support initiatives within the program. It’s actually going to be mandated that there’s an experiential opportunity to do research, to do an internship or an externship,” Prezant said. 

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