The National Science Foundation has awarded Trinity University and three other private liberal arts universities in San Antonio a grant of nearly $2.5 million to increase the number of historically underrepresented students and those from lower-income backgrounds obtaining bachelor’s degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
St. Mary's University will administer this $2,478,170 grant-funded project from the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program and implement it over the next five years. Our Lady of the Lake University and the University of the Incarnate Word are the other local grant recipients.
St. Mary’s University, Our Lady of the Lake University, and the University of the Incarnate Word are Hispanic Serving institutions. Trinity is currently an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution.
“We want to help underrepresented, minority students stay in college and increase their successful graduation and transition into graduate school or careers in STEM fields,” said Melissa Karlin, Ph.D., director of the Office of Student Research and Inquiry and associate professor of environmental science at St. Mary’s University.
"Trinity is pleased to be part of this alliance, and to learn what activities best support student retention in STEM fields. This is vital to the future of STEM, our universities, and the greater San Antonio community," says David Ribble, Ph.D., associate vice president for academic affairs and biology professor at Trinity.
Along with the other universities in the alliance, Trinity will:
- Recruit, enroll, and support underrepresented minority STEM students by nurturing their psychosocial development needed to transform their sense of belonging as scientists.
- Engage students’ families in an orientation event to help them understand the demands of the STEM academic world.
- Collaborate between universities on data collection to understand better the effectiveness of different retention strategies.
- Evaluate the project’s activities to maximize impact on student retention, persistence, graduation, and the workforce.
About 400 STEM majors will benefit from the grant. Each university will launch a cohort of 20 students annually and support them for their first two years of college, which is when they have identified a drop in retention.
The program will include a joint orientation for each cohort of students and their families from all four institutions, including alliance-wide workshops and programming. During eight-week summer research sessions, up to six scholars from each institution will have their housing covered and receive a stipend as they conduct research with faculty at any of the four institutions that share their area of interest.
“We see many students drop from these majors by their second year, and we worked to identify the main factors during a pre-planning grant period. Based on those results, this new program will include intentional mentoring and relationship-building between STEM students, peer coaches, and faculty mentors across the alliance. That bond among the students and sense of belonging will hopefully increase and help faculty and mentors to more easily identify issues or struggles as they arise,” Karlin said.
Karlin said that the long history and strength of the relationship between the four universities aided their application for the grant.