New $617,000 NSF Grant to Fund Scholarships in Chemistry

Duquesne University's Bayer School, in partnership with the School of Education, has received a $617,850 grant from the National Science Foundation—money earmarked for scholarships for academically talented, financially challenged undergraduate and graduate students through the Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program.

The program will provide opportunities for social mobility and meet workforce needs. Starting this fall, the new initiative will support eligible undergraduate and graduate chemistry majors who are enrolled at Duquesne or who transfer to the University from community college.

In the first year, one graduate mentor will be teamed with three freshmen and two junior chemistry majors. Within five years, the cohort will support nine freshmen, five community college transfers, two upperclassmen and three doctoral chemistry students.

"We will impact a wide range of academically talented and proven students, and help them financially to get a first-rate educational experience at Duquesne University," said Dr. Jeffrey Evanseck, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who is the principal investigator for the grant. "We want to utilize local talents and attract our best students to the sciences."

"This is a way of increasing diversity in the STEM workforce from an economic perspective," added Dr. David Seybert, chemistry professor and a grant co-investigator who served as dean during the application.

The Offices of Admissions and Financial Aid, the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and the School of Education also are involved in this concerted effort.

"The scholarships are awarded to students with a proven academic record and who demonstrate the most financial need," said Rich Esposito, director of financial aid. "We are helping them to be successful at a difficult time and assisting them in meeting their tuition and fees obligations. This scholarship would be in combination with any other academic or needs-based award received; one complements the other."

Capable students from disadvantaged backgrounds, often first-generation college students, are most likely to start at community college or opt for public instead of private education. They are more apt to complete degrees on time when they are provided with academic support and their non-academic skills, such as leadership, are reinforced.

Integrated mentoring to address both academic and non-academic issues sets this program apart, and CTE's mentoring resources will be tailored to this group, said Laurel Willingham-McLain, CTE director.

While helping individuals achieve their potential, the initiative will have wider impact. With increased international demand in STEM fields, the U.S. will need to recruit more home-grown talent to remain competitive.

"The talent is out there," said Evanseck.

In addition to Seybert, Evanseck's co-investigators include Drs. Ralph Wheeler, Jeffry Madura and Ellen Gawalt of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Drs. Alexandra Santau and Connie Moss of the Department of Instruction Leadership in Education, who will be involved in assessment and training. Drs. Michael Cascio, Rita Mihailescu, Tomislav Pintauer and Stephanie Wetzel from the chemistry and biochemistry department will design and employ advanced workshops to enhance the educational experience for the S-STEM students over the academic year.

Scholarships will be awarded based upon college applications; no separate application is required. The program is supported by the Pennsylvania Administrators' Council on Education, the Community College of Allegheny County, Bayer Material Science, the Bayer USA Foundation and the regional Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science.

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