School of Natural Sciences receives grant

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In 2016, the School of Natural Sciences was awarded a Scholarships in 
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) grant for $649,340 
by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant is titled “Promoting persistence of underprivileged college students in science and mathematics through engagement of their families.” This project, conducted by Associate Dean Kevin Johnson, professor Dawn Bregel, professor Liesl McComick and professor Nancy Neudauer, will award annual and renewable scholarships to 36 low-income, academically-talented students, who will each receive an amount of $6,000. 
The scholarships will be offered to Pacific’s transfer and returning students that are majoring in biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental science, mathematics and physics. “The idea is not to just give [the students] money, but to give them some career exploration opportunities so they can learn what possible careers there are in the sciences,” Johnson said. Recipients will have access to STEM career development opportunities and specialized on-campus programming such as mentoring, internships, participation in research and help with finding a job.
“They are set up to be one year scholarships that are renewable, as long 
as the student’s making good progress toward a major in the natural sciences,” Johnson said. These scholarships are meant to help provide low-income students who may not otherwise be able to obtain a STEM degree.
“I think the other part is to help the parents of these students who have these scholarships know a little bit more about what it means to a college student, particularly if the recipient 
of the scholarship is a first-generation student their parents may not have gone to college and may really not know what it’s all about,” said Johnson. Part of the objective of these scholarships is to help parents who may not have gone to college understand what it means to declare a major and what their children’s different career opportunities are. “Grants from the national science foundation are very competitive,” Johnson said. “There’s a really high expectation of the grant itself that’s submitted and then the activities that this grant is going to involve.”
Four or five proposals for the NSF grant were submitted, one each year, 
before it was finally awarded to Pacific; it can be very difficult to receive a grant, but Pacific was committed to do this, to help the students. “The thing that I want to emphasize is that this was important enough for us to try several times to get the grant and important enough to Pacific that it’s supported by not just the folks in the natural sciences, but the College of Arts and Sciences and the university as well,” Johnson said.

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