Publication Date

Principal Investigator (PI) Joanne Kehlbeck, associate professor of chemistry, and co-Principal Investigator David Cotter, professor of sociology, have been awarded a $996K National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (S-STEM) grant (#1742407). The project entitled “SUCCESS-LEADERS: Leading Educational and Academic Directions to Enhance Retention in STEM” aims to develop, refine, and implement practices that can be easily translated and adapted to the entire institution and other institutions and can advance understanding of factors affecting retention and career pathways of low-income, at-risk populations.

The  “SUCCESS-LEADERS” grant builds off Union’s longstanding history of success with NSF STEM education initiatives, including PI Kehlbeck’s continuing

“SUCCESS: Stimulating Undergraduates: Creating Contributors in Engineering and Science for Society” S-STEM grant awarded in February of 2014. The “SUCCESS” grant brought in two cohorts, totaling 21 students, from economically disadvantaged, underrepresented, or poor performing high schools, targeting students from under-resourced, rural schools. These SUCCESS Scholars have received close and careful mentoring from team-based faculty mentors, participated in the scholar sophomore research project, and have had opportunities for summer research experiences early in their academic careers. These factors have led to a productive and continuous research trajectory for many of the Scholars and has inspired further post-baccalaureate study and pursuit of STEM careers. The first cohort will graduate in Spring of 2018, followed by the second cohort in Spring of 2019.

Through this new award, Union will see an increase in the number of applications and admissions from academically-talented students from under-resourced, rural high schools; will improve the retention rates and success of these students in the STEM fields, specifically by addressing the unique challenges they face; will increase the number of women in engineering, physics, mathematics, and computer science and increase the number of underrepresented groups in all STEM fields; will enhance their education through early introduction to research opportunities, connections to industry and internships, study abroad and leadership training; and will improve undergraduate educational experiences and promote professional advancement by facilitating fruitful mentoring relationship that seek to address areas of attrition in STEM. Co-PI Cotter will lead a retrospective, longitudinal study of the prior NSF-funded scholars at Union, along with the new SUCCESS-LEADERS cohorts that will arrive on campus in the Fall of 2019 and Fall of 2020, to assess the long range impacts of the elements that have been refined through this initiative designed to retain at-risk populations.

Joining PI Kehlbeck and co-PI Cotter on “SUCCESS-LEADERS” project team are: Faculty Cohort Mentors Samuel Amanuel, Ronald Bucinell, Palma Catravas, and Holli Frey; STEM-focused Scholars Research Seminar (SRS) Faculty Laura MacManus-Spencer and Michael Hagerman; Director of Undergraduate Research, Chad Orzel; and the Vice President for Admissions, Financial Aid, and Enrollment Matthew Malatesta.