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Faculty receive National Science Foundation grant

Grant funds programs in science, math, engineering and technology


Liz Johnson, Amy Vanderbilt and Dena Morton, assistant professors in mathematics and computer science, along with Marco Fatuzzo, assistant professor in physics, recently received a $99,970 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP). This is a new program that aims to increase the number of students receiving baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The University’s grant proposal was one of only 16 funded out of 177 total proposals from all sizes of schools. Xavier’s 30-month pilot project focuses on first-year students in computer science, mathematics and physics. In order to increase and retain the number of students majoring in these subjects, the project includes informing prospective majors about the disciplines and providing extra support for students, particularly during and after their first year. A secondary objective of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities majoring in computer science, mathematics and physics, and the number of women in computer science and physics. The STEP program at Xavier was designed to try out various ideas for providing support and encouragement for students considering majors in the three targeted programs. According to Johnson, the STEM Exposure component is especially exciting. “Students and parents always ask us what a graduate can do with a mathematics degree, for example. Now the first-year student will have the opportunity to interact with professionals from industry and academia who use science and mathematics daily in their careers.” The program includes: • An exposure component to inform first-year prospective majors about computer science, mathematics and physics, and about career opportunities in these disciplines. • An undergraduate teaching assistant program that assigns current majors to be tutors/mentors to first-year students; a grants program to provide funds for student-planned activities aimed at outreach to high school students and prospective majors. • A summer bridge program to help struggling students in these disciplines between their first and second years. • A workshop series for STEM faculty to raise awareness of recruitment and retention issues, particularly for female and minority students. For more information about the STEP program, call Liz Johnson at 513 745-3667.