Allegheny receives $1.4 million for STEM scholarships

Allegheny College announced in a press release on Monday, Sept. 20, that it received a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support twelve incoming low-income STEM students.

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Ivelitza Garcia described how the financial support will be paired with on campus assistance. According to Garcia, the scholarships will supplement financial aid packages so that the cost of attendance is zero. In addition to financial package support, the program will assist students in finding textbook resources.

“We can create a program that is ‘sustainable,’ meaning that we are reorganizing and retooling what we already have so that students are more aware of the resource,” Garcia said. “It’s organized so that they don’t have to be jumping over hoops to get certain help through campus.”

The grant proposal had been in the works since fall 2019 before a pause when the pandemic hit. Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Lauren French revealed the actions taken to continue the project through the pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit and everything went off the rails we were going to try to submit it still,” French said. “(The National Science Foundation) delayed their deadlines and in the end we decided to wait. In the summer of 2020 we started talking about it again and we were hesitant at first.”

The objective of the program is to drive innovation through giving people who may not have had the opportunity to be in the science community a new perspective about their capabilities.

“The idea is to give the students the support that they need and then show them the possibilities,” French said. “We want to keep them interested and make sure they don’t think they don’t belong or can’t do it.

We want students to see that if they are interested in science, there is a place for them and they are welcome.”

The vision driving the project is to include more diverse perspectives in the scientific community so more  people from all backgrounds can participate in thinking about solutions to larger world issues while also being a part of future technological innovations.

“In the next coming years we are going to need new technology to deal with the challenges we are currently facing globally like renewable energy, clean water and fossil fuels,” Garcia said. “We are going to need a very diverse group of scientists, technologists and humanists who think differently. Even though you are a science major you still have your minor and can communicate across different fields.”

Assistant Professor of Psychology Jennifer Foreman explained one of the ways the program will help the chosen STEM students build their relationships with faculty and their peers.

“We are going to have a very tight mentoring relationship with those students,” Foreman said. “Both (Garcia) and (French) will mentor; they have already established peer mentors in the labs that they run.”.

One of the goals is to make sure the STEM students experience long-term professional benefits after graduation from being in the program.

“We will encourage students to participate in research opportunities and recommend them to faculty,” French said. “The professional links made in college through research opportunities on campus and off campus are going to be important for after college.”

Garcia said the recruitment process has already begun with reaching out to students who are interested in Allegheny and also reaching out to those who are not. Additionally, the scholarships are currently being used as a recruitment tool to bring more types of students to campus.

“We are going to approach everyone who qualifies as a low-income student and applied at Allegheny, then based on that interest, we’re going to then step back and so the selection,” Garcia said.

According to French, students who decide to come to Allegheny for the STEM scholarship can decide to switch their major outside the field but will no longer be supported by the STEM scholarship. However, they are currently working with the Allegheny Financial aid office to make sure they can still attend.

“If students decide they love Allegheny but want to be an English major, we want to make sure we can keep them here and find ways to continue to support them,” French said.

The scholarships are meant to introduce a wider range of students in the college as well as in the field.

“There are always going to be benefits of having a diverse set of people in any field,” Foreman said.