Pathways to STEM Careers grant increased, extended
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $4,036,338 grant to University of Houston-Clear Lake targeting Hispanic/Latino/a/x and other low-income students in a STEM-related degree program.
The grant, entitled "Supporting Diversity in STEM Careers" aims to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students earning degrees in STEM fields for the next five years. This new project builds upon the work of the "Pathways to STEM Careers" grant originally awarded in 2016 for about $3.7 million.
"The grant provides stipends for undergraduate students working as interns, research assistants, and peer mentors," said Principal Investigator and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathy Matthew. "Additionally, it provides funds for student conference travel to present on the research they undertake with faculty members."
Project Director Andrea Alvarado and Project Assistant Jo Ann Wilder work to provide the support that Hispanic and low-income students need to earn their degrees. Matthew and Professor of Computer Science and Co-Principal Investigator Sadegh Davari worked collaboratively on the first grant, and will continue with the second grant.
"The grant allows us to create scholarships through endowments that will outlive the grant," Matthew said. "With the first Pathways grant, we added an endowed scholarship for about $5,000 per year, but with the support of University Advancement, that amount increased to about $200,000 with the generosity of a donor."
With the second grant, Matthew said the intent is the same. "We will work with University Advancement to get another endowed scholarship on campus, and we anticipate the same success," she said. "It's an example of us being able to leverage funds to make a lasting impact. These scholarships don't go away, even though the grants do expire at some point."
Alvarado said that the grants specifically provide for stipends for peer mentors, research assistants and interns. "We partner with local companies and we'll pay the students' stipend if they can get the opportunity to do the internship," she said.
"Without this, students would have to get another job in order to meet their expenses. Some students might not want to come to college for this reason — they believe they can't leave their jobs, but we can do it," she continued. "We can keep them on campus and they don't have to get the second job, and this pays better than minimum wage."
Matthew said that data collected from the original grant showed that students who participated in the previous grant had higher GPAs than students who did not. "Participating students also reported that engaging in the grant's high-impact practices gave them a strong sense of belonging to the campus community," she said.
Alvarado said she was most gratified by the students' personal stories of the impact of the grant activities on their lives. "I constantly hear from our alumni. They say, 'I am working at my dream job!' or tell me other ways that the grant has helped them in their current careers," she said. "Programs like PSC that keep students interested, persistent, and engaged are needed, particularly in difficult disciplines like STEM. It was so crucial for us to get funded so that we can continue the work that we started."
Between 2016 and 2021, PSC has helped over sixty students graduate and go on to jobs in STEM, STEM Education, master's and doctoral programs. Additionally, it has provided close to $1 million in student-employee stipends.
With the new program, Matthew said they hope to support even more students. For more information about UHCL's Pathways to STEM Careers grant program, go online.