The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Northern Illinois University with a $2 million grant to ramp up efforts to encourage more students to choose career paths in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The funding, to be dispersed over five years through NSF’s Science Talent Expansion Program (STEP), is being used to launch an NIU initiative titled Providing Resources and Opportunities to Maximize Interest in STEM Education (PROMISE).
The PROMISE initiative will focus its efforts on all freshmen and sophomores who are undecided or beginning their studies in STEM fields, with a particular emphasis on broadening the participation of underrepresented students, such as women, ethnic minorities, veterans and people with disabilities.
“This is an example of NIU’s commitment to the success of our students and to the success of the State of Illinois,” said NIU Deputy Provost Earl “Gip” Seaver. “The STEP grant reflects a commitment on the part of NSF and NIU to broaden representation in the STEM workforce. This is viewed nationally as being critical to ensuring a healthy economy.”
The PROMISE project was spearheaded by NIU’s CHANCE program, which is working in collaboration with Career Services, the Academic Advising Center and the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Engineering and Engineering Technology.
“The goal of the program is to increase interest, retention and graduation rates for students in the STEM fields,” said Denise R. Hayman, CHANCE director. “By the end of this program, we hope to produce 200 additional STEM graduates.”
While the first year of the grant funding is mostly for planning, Hayman said she hopes to have 100 freshman students enrolled by next fall.
The PROMISE program will provide students with access to a summer pre-college program to enhance mathematical knowledge, specialized academic support structures, research opportunities with faculty, and career and graduate school preparation.
PROMISE students will take courses in cohorts, participate in peer-led study groups, tour STEM laboratories and businesses in the region and receive financial aid counseling identifying potential grants and scholarships.
Additionally, a workshop will be held for faculty to discuss best practices in STEM education.