Oct 07, 2016
Humboldt State University has been awarded nearly $4 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) majors.
Under the Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM and Articulations Programs, HSU will receive $3,949,145 over the next five years.
“The grant will provide hands-on learning opportunities that connect coursework to pressing scientific, social, and environmental issues in our community,” says Wildlife Professor Matt Johnson who, with Biology professor Amy Sprowles, led the team who applied for the grant. “Best of all, we can substantively improve the educational experience for STEM students, especially those from Hispanic, Latino, Native American and other historically underrepresented backgrounds.”
A Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is a college or university with an undergraduate full-time equivalent enrollment of at least 25 percent Hispanic students. HSU, designated an HSI since 2013, is one of 18 HSI campuses in the California State University system. Currently, 13 percent of U.S. colleges and universities are designated as HSIs.
The number of HSU’s Hispanic/Latino and first-generation students has surged since 2015. This year, a record 34 percent of all students are Hispanic/Latino (up from 32 percent) and the total number of underrepresented students rose approximately 2 percent to 46 percent. And for two consecutive years, the number of first-generation students comprised more than 55 percent of all first-time students.“It’s a new era. These students are the new majority and reflect the future workforce and graduate students in STEM disciplines,” says Johnson.
This new grant will extend and expand efforts that are already underway at the university to boost the success of STEM majors and other students.
One program founded by Johnson and Sprowles, called the Klamath Connection, introduces freshmen from four of the most popular HSU science majors to their fields by focusing on the Klamath River. Over the academic year, the students take science and general education courses and participate in activities to understand the relationships between science, the natural environment, and local Native tribes.
The HSI STEM grant will help establish similar place-based learning communities for other science majors. The new grant will also forge relationships with several two-year institutions to streamline transfer pathways into HSU science disciplines.
Additionally, Humboldt State was one of 44 colleges nationwide selected for the First-Year Experience (RFY) pilot program. The goal of the RFY is to help the participating colleges implement changes that enhance the first-year experience, increase retention, and improve graduation rates, particularly among historically underserved populations.