News

May 7, 2010

College Receives $590,000 Grant to Launch New Scholarship Program

National Science Foundation funds will increase underrepresented students majoring in computer science and engineering

Recognizing Lafayette’s commitment to increase diversity on campus, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the College $590,000 over the next five years to be used for scholarships. The grant is funded under the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S-STEM) program.

The grant will help launch the College’s S-STEM Program to Advance Leadership in Engineering and Computer Science and provide scholarships, mentoring, and enrichment for approximately 13 first-year students and six community college transfer students. Non-European ethnic groups, first-generation college students, and women are the targeted areas of underrepresented students.

“Nationally, the fields of computer science and engineering are trying to improve the percentage of underrepresented students who pursue these majors and careers,” explains Sharon Jones, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of engineering, who co-authored the grant with Chun Wai Liew, associate professor and head of computer science. “Increased diversity of population, experience, ways of knowing, etc. enhance the educational process. Engineers and computer scientists are developing solutions for the broad population, and better representation among engineers and computer scientists will enhance these solutions.”

Called Leadership Scholars, the students will receive tiered, need-based scholarships that increase after they declare majors in computer science or engineering. Students will participate in a three-semester “Leadership in STEM” co-curricular program to expose them to the distinct opportunities available at the College. They also will complete at least one paid summer research or internship experience at Lafayette before their junior year.

The scholarship program will help Lafayette explore new sources of highly-qualified students. Modeled after University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program, Lafayette has adapted it to emphasize the benefits of STEM education within the liberal arts context.

“The liberal arts have served our engineering and computer science students well over their careers,” says Jones. “This grant helps us get the word out to high schools and community colleges that may not have thought of Lafayette as a place to pursue these careers. Community colleges are important sources of very qualified students who enhance their interests and competencies for STEM fields before matriculating to four-year schools. The more pipelines there are, the better, as we bring in a highly qualified and diverse student body.”

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