Oct. 15, 2011 -- Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles has been awarded a five-year, $6-million dollar Title III federal grant to enhance curricula and support for Hispanic, female and low-income students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM disciplines.
The grant, titled “Improving STEM Curricula, Support and Articulation for Hispanic, Women and Low-Income Students,” will support institutional development in STEM-related areas in partnership with El Camino College in Torrance, Calif. The Mount will serve as the lead institution with $1.2 million in funding each year from Oct. 1, 2011 to October 2015.
Among the main components of the grant, the Mount will: repurpose five classrooms into high-tech science and mathematics centers; intensify faculty development; enhance undergraduate research opportunities in STEM fields; increase the number of students graduating with bachelor’s degrees in these fields; and align math and science coursework at the two-year El Camino College with requirements at the Mount. The grant also will fund support centers at both colleges staffed with career and academic advisers, provide summer workshops to support and retain first- and second-year students in these areas and add a new environmental science major at the Mount.
“This grant is excellent for students because it’s going to help us develop our faculty and develop the institution itself,” said the Mount’s Title III project coordinator Larry Smith, vice president of information services/enrollment management. “Our concerns are to strengthen the faculty and to make sure the students are having the best educational experience possible.”
The Mount is among 109 institutions nationwide receiving a total of $100 million from the U.S. Department of Education beginning this October to enhance science, technology, engineering and math components at schools that enroll a high percentage of Hispanic students. “We know that Latinos will play an integral part in helping America reach President Obama’s goal of having the highest college graduation rate in the world by 2020,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These programs will help to spur academic achievement for Hispanic students, especially within STEM programs, which are key to building a highly-skilled workforce that can compete in a global marketplace.”
As the only Catholic college for women west of the Mississippi, Mount St. Mary’s is focused on helping more women attain degrees in the science and math disciplines. The College is drafting its own Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California, scheduled to be released in April 2012. Among the report’s key findings, fewer women than men are enrolled in science and math majors in California’s four-year colleges and universities, according to data from the California Postsecondary Education Commission.
Data show that as girls get older and move up in grade level, they underperform in higher-level math and science courses compared to boys, and are eventually less-represented in Advanced Placement classes such as calculus, physics and chemistry. In 2009, President Barack Obama launched the Educate to Innovate campaign aimed at encouraging excellence in science and math among young people across America. The initiative identifies Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education as the key for America’s future growth, and makes a commitment to increase STEM literacy among all students, as well as expand education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.