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COD Awarded $650,000 Grant to Support STEM Education

NSF Grant Icon

By Mike McKissack

College of DuPage was recently awarded a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support STEM education at the College.

According to COD Director of Grants Barbara Abromitis, it took the efforts of a team of faculty and administrators to secure the grant, but she hopes the funding of the new S-STEM Student Success program will further the emphasis COD is now beginning to put on STEM education. 

“The S-STEM Student Success program is designed to address the needs of students and promote STEM careers for traditionally underserved students through enhanced educational opportunities and support structures,” Abromitis said.

The College’s new S-STEM Student Success program will recruit and award full scholarships to a total of approximately 56 eligible students to complete a two-year program for graduation or transfer in either chemistry, physics or engineering programs who were chosen for their academic rigor, extensive use of math, and pre-existing research partnerships with four-year institutions and national laboratories. Aimed at academically successful students who can demonstrate financial need, the program will include a dedicated STEM Student Success Coach to provide students a broad range of support and guidance.”

The students in the S-STEM program will receive individualized academic, advising and career support through a range of measures such as individualized case management, counseling, guided study groups, faculty mentoring and cohort-based courses and tutoring, as well as enhanced educational opportunities such as internships, job shadowing, industry networking, speakers bureau events and undergraduate research opportunities.

“This grant has helped us to merge elements that are already in place at the College into one powerful and comprehensive educational unit,” Abromitis said.

Principal Investigator (PI) for the S-STEM program, Professor of Chemistry Richard Jarman, joined by a team of COD administrators and faculty, including, Physics Professor and Tom Carter, Assistant Professor of Chemistry William “Gary” Roby and Associate Dean of Math and Physical Science Tom Schrader, is tasked with overseeing the management of the S-STEM project. As PI, Jarman’s duties include supervision of the STEM student success coach, data collection, and reporting and dissemination of results.

He said he is thrilled that the College received the award.

“Community colleges receive only a fraction of funding from the NSF,” Jarman said. “Being awarded this grant is a significant achievement for a community college. Through our proposal and COD’s existing programs and support structures, the NSF saw the College had plenty of systems in place that would enable us to identify, recruit and retain appropriate candidates.”

Jarman has a long history of pioneering curricular changes and coordinating undergraduate research opportunities for students at COD. He successfully obtained a Faculty and Student Team (FaST) grant project at Argonne National Laboratory, coordinated the NSF-funded Undergraduate Research Collaborative, which provided summer research opportunities for students and acted as Campus Director for the “Green Fuels Depot,” a Department of Energy-funded project involving Packer Engineering, the City of Naperville and Argonne National Lab.

While Jarman said the proposal process and implementation of the program necessitates a lot of extra work for the administrators and faculty involved, the rewards are well worth the trouble.

“First and foremost, we are committed to student success and we don’t want financially disadvantaged students to be without opportunities in their education or career,” he said. “Second, funding is becoming increasingly significant. Considering the trend of cuts to state support of colleges and universities in Illinois and across the U.S., bringing in outside financial resources to boost the program is critically important.”

Click here to learn more about the S-STEM Student Success program.

Click here to learn more about STEM-related programs at COD.

College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 27,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.

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