NIU PROMISE Scholars program impresses National Science Foundation

Logo of the National Science Foundation (NSF)NIU’s PROMISE Scholars Program presented highlights of the program’s progress to a National Science Foundation review team in the spring.

All award recipients are required during their third-year review in Washington, D.C., to present their progress.

Funded in 2011 by a five-year, $2 million grant from the NSF, the “Providing Resources and Opportunity to Maximize Interest in STEM Education” program encourages students across campus to declare or persist in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) major at NIU.

The program focuses on five components:

  • a summer pre-college math program;
  • a STEM learning community of students enrolled in TECH 294 and UNIV 101;
  • researched peer opportunities with faculty and students;
  • career readiness or graduate school preparation for STEM majors; and
  • faculty adoption of best practices in STEM education.

Reviewers from the NSF noted several program strengths in DeKalb.

Seventy percent of the students in the first three PROMISE cohorts are underrepresented students in STEM, boasting a retention rate higher than similarly situated students.

Multiple offices coordinate to provide coherent services for STEM students. Collaboration spans the Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, the CHANCE Program, the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, the Academic Advising Center and Career Services.

Denise R. Hayman
Denise R. Hayman

Students are engaged with industry partners such as Fermilab, Alcatel Lucent, Motorola and Boeing. Undergraduates also are involved in research with NIU faculty.

Freshmen retention of the 2012 cohort impressively outpaced its comparison group, 91 percent versus 84 percent, and rose for the 2013 cohort: 95 percent versus 86 percent.

The panel encouraged NIU to continue drop-in tutoring offered to students in the PROMISE and CHANCE office space and incorporating PROMISE into the campus climate and culture to enhance sustainability.

During the coming academic year, the program is planning new initiatives such as “Take a STEM Professor to Lunch,” a STEM Peer Mentoring Program and a 2015 “Advancing STEM Education: Priming the Pump” conference. The 2014 conference featured Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president for Boeing and among the most prominent African-American female executives in technology, as the keynote speaker.

PROMISE is the first NSF STEP awarded of its kind to NIU, resulting from the support of the deans of the colleges of Engineering and Engineering Technology and Liberal Arts and Science; the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program, the Academic Advising Center and Career Services.

For more information, call (815) 753-9222 or email dhayman1@niu.edu.

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