NSF Grant to Help Honors College Recruit STEM Students

Paul Adams, associate professor, has served as research mentor for more than 70 students in the past 10 years, and will lead the Path to Graduation Program. Here, he confers with Djamali Muhoza, a doctoral student in the cellular and molecular biology program.
By Russell Cothren

Paul Adams, associate professor, has served as research mentor for more than 70 students in the past 10 years, and will lead the Path to Graduation Program. Here, he confers with Djamali Muhoza, a doctoral student in the cellular and molecular biology program.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The National Science Foundation has awarded $999,847 in grant funding to the University of Arkansas’ Path to Graduation Program, which aims to increase the number of low-income students, especially those from rural regions of Arkansas, who graduate with a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, the STEM fields.

“Currently the state of Arkansas is not able to meet STEM labor demands. This grant is an important first step in training the next generation of scientists and engineers from throughout the state and beyond,” said Lynda Coon, dean of the Honors College. “This program will specifically target those areas of Arkansas where there are many minority and first-generation students but few opportunities to pursue STEM education.”

Paul Adams, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry as well as cellular and molecular biology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will direct the program. He has mentored more than 70 students at undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels since coming to the U of A in 2007, and said he decided to participate in the program based on his own experience growing up.

“I’m not from a rural area or underprivileged background, but STEM disciplines were not discussed in my home nor in my community as a potential career option,” Adams recalled. “This program fits perfectly with my desire to continue to lift as I climb as an academic professional in a STEM discipline.”

As principal investigator, Adams will help to welcome the students when they first arrive on campus and will contribute to ongoing support, in addition to reporting on their progress throughout their career at the U of A.

“We look forward to the opportunity to prepare these students, help them choose the appropriate major in STEM, and immediately be immersed in research,” he said.

The grant will support two groups of 18 STEM students per year who will receive annually renewable scholarships of up to $4,500, or $5,500 if they participate in the Honors College. These students will also benefit from an in-residence summer bridge program, shared housing, academic success advising, faculty and peer mentoring, and on-campus or industry-based research opportunities. Grant funding will begin Jan. 1, 2018, and extend through Dec. 31, 2022. The first cohort of Path to Graduation Scholars will arrive on campus in fall 2018.

The Path to Graduation program is an extension of the Honors College Path Program, established in 2014 to recruit exceptional high school students from underrepresented populations and to help them excel at the University of Arkansas. More than 40 percent of Path students have joined the Honors College to date, and an estimated 100 percent of the first group are on schedule to graduate next May.

“We’ve done well with recruiting students to Path in years past, just by offering academic mentoring and social support, and our students have flourished here,” said Terrance Boyd, director of recruitment and the Path Program. “Now, being able to share that there’s a scholarship available – oh my goodness! This will definitely expand the impact of our program, and help us recruit students who might otherwise seek opportunities outside of Arkansas.”

Carol Gattis, associate dean emerita of the Honors College, authored the grant with input and help from other partners on the grant, including Yvette Murphy-Erby, vice provost for diversity and inclusion; Leslie Yingling, associate dean for inclusion in student affairs; Bryan Hill, assistant dean for student recruitment and diversity, honors and international programs in the College of Engineering; and Terrance Boyd.

Including this grant, Gattis has won $4.3 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education to promote STEM education in Arkansas’ public schools.

“The really great thing about this grant is that all of our Path students will benefit,” Dean Coon said. “NSF support will take funding for our students in STEM fields to new levels, while Path students pursuing degrees in business, education, and the arts and humanities will continue to benefit from privately funded scholarships.”

Thanks to lead gifts from Honors College Dean Emeritus Bob McMath and his wife Linda, Nick and Carolyn Cole, and Lee and Beverly Bodenhamer, the Honors College to date has raised more than $600,000 to fund scholarships for Path students.

About the Honors College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and unites the university’s top undergraduate students and professors in a learning environment characterized by discovery, creativity and service. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $70,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad – three times the national average – and one hundred percent of them have engaged in mentored research.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Lynda Coon, Dean
Honors College
479-575-7678, llcoon@uark.edu

Paul Adams, Associate Professor
J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences
479-575-5621, pxa001@uark.edu

Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College
479-575-2024, kcurlee@uark.edu

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