Grant awarded to help science and engineering program

Chris LaFoy

Grand Valley State University has secured a grant that will provide 30 scholarships for each of the next five years to students in the science or engineering fields.

As an extension to the existing Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, this $600,000 grant will help students that are in their final two years of a bachelor’s degree. The candidates will be both existing GVSU student and transfer students from Grand Rapids Community College.

A team of five professors from GVSU collaborated on the project. The grant was awarded to Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing and Jann Joseph, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“This grant project builds upon the S-STEM grant that we are just completing and will continue to
focus on assisting STEM students with high financial need during the final two years of their studies,” said Plotkowski.

The S-STEM grant is awarded by the National Science Foundation. The NSF is an independent agency created by Congress that allocates money to fund science education and research. In 2010, the NSF distributed $6.9 billion to colleges and research facilities in the US.

The program has been historically successful. 95% of students that receive money associated with the grant graduate.

“This is a highly competitive process through which only a small percentage of proposals are funded,” Plotkowski said.

Michigan was only awarded 17 of these grants in 2011.

“The process included the development of a competitive proposal that was reviewed by national experts, ranked, and judged to be among the best submitted, Poltkowski said.

This grant focuses the available funds so they get spent on students with financial need. The grant will be awarded depending on letters of recommendation, previous academic achievement and future plans of study.

“Too frequently, the group of students who are eligible for this program tend to work too much, or start and stop their studies due to financial and support challenges,” Plotkowski said. “Through this program, GVSU students will be able to reduce their outside work, receive mentoring and support, and focus on completing their degrees in a timely manner.”

Supporters of the grant say it is valuable grant not just for the university.

“There is a shortage of skilled professionals in the STEM fields,” Poltkowski. “By assisting GVSU students in completing their education in these fields there will be a direct impact on their lives and the economic strength of Michigan.”

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