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CSU-Pueblo earns $6 million grant to build active STEM learners

Release Date: September 29, 2016

Cora Zaletel

Executive Director, External Affairs

Colorado State University-Pueblo


Press Release

Colorado State University-Pueblo will receive nearly $6 million over the next five years from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of Hispanic and other low-income students earning degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields through development of new curriculum, centers for learning and engagement, and a model transfer and articulation agreement between CSU-Pueblo and Pueblo Community College.

CSU-Pueblo was one of only two Colorado schools, and the only four-year institution, to be awarded funds from the H-S-I STEM and Articulation Program. Community College of Denver was the other Colorado recipient. To qualify, grant applicants had to either be a Hispanic Serving Institution (at least 25 percent of student population of Hispanic descent) or partnering with a HSI. Forty-nine percent (49%) of CSU-Pueblo's fall 2016 student population reported being from a minority group, with 34 percent indicating they were Hispanic.

CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare noted that in the last few months alone the University has received nearly $10 million from the U.S. Department of Education for three different grants (Talent Search, Educational Opportunity Center, HSI STEM) that will improve the student experience, while advancing the University's academic reputation, especially in the STEM fields.

"This grant will significantly increase the amount of hands-on undergraduate research that we can provide, thus contributing directly to our strategic focus in experiential education," she said.

CSU-Pueblo's Communities to Build Active STEM Engagement (C-BASE) Program will integrate curricular (new and redesigned coursework), co-curricular (undergraduate research opportunities, mentorship, student services), and programmatic (professional development, community building, and seminar series) initiatives to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates in STEM fields among Hispanic and low-income learners.

The team of Biology Professor Dr. Brian Vanden Heuvel, PROPEL Grant Director Tina Moore and PROPEL Curriculum Specialist Abby Davidson co-authored the application. The writing team was supported by an interdisciplinary group of faculty, representing all STEM departments on campus.

Vanden Heuvel said activities in year one of the grant, which begins Oct. 1, include the hiring of three post-doctoral researchers (from underrepresented classes), the hiring of eight junior student researchers, as well as the start of the general chemistry curriculum redevelopment (Project PASSChem) scheduled to launch in the fall of 2017. As the years progress, the grant will provide funding for up to 32 juniors and seniors and 32 sophomores to engage in the research communities, hopefully eliminating the need for them to find additional jobs off campus. It also will provide release time for faculty who choose to mentor and research with the students or to engage in curriculum development.

"It is a multi-layered approach, which involves junior and senior student researchers working with post-doctoral researchers and faculty in research communities. The upper division students will act as mentors and tutors to lower division students, who eventually will take on the leadership and mentorship roles," Vanden Heuvel said.

Moore said communities are important aspects of student success within STEM disciplines. Underrepresented STEM students tend to come to campus with a deep connection to their communities and their families and seek opportunities to give back and make a difference.

"This grant is about building those connections and helping them to see the many opportunities that the STEM fields can provide."

Colorado State University - Pueblo is a regional, comprehensive university emphasizing professional, career-oriented, and applied programs. Displaying excellence in teaching, celebrating diversity, and engaging in service and outreach, CSU-Pueblo is distinguished by access, opportunity, and the overall quality of services provided to its students.

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