Mesalands Community College was one of three regional colleges selected to partner with Texas Tech University to provide scholarships for low-income students pursuing a degree in mathematics. The ultimate goal of this grant is to increase the number of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. This five-year grant was funded by the National Science Foundation.
A portion of the grant will be used to fund the South Plains Mathematics Fellows (SPMF) program at Texas Tech. This program will provide up to $10,000 per year to students who qualify at Mesalands, Midland College, and Odessa College. Financial qualification is determined by the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.
“Part of the approach represented that this type of effort to coordinate the transition of STEM students from regional colleges, to STEM students at research universities, could increase the overall number of students in STEM fields, both by infusing new STEM students in the pipeline and by enhancing the retention of such new STEM students and the retention of existing STEM students,” said Kent Pearce, Lead Investigator on the grant and the Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Texas Tech University in a news release.
Since 2007, a similar program at Texas Tech has been successful in providing scholarships to 40 students with financial need. More than 70 percent of those students have graduated, or are on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM discipline, according to the news release.
This grant will also assist Mesalands in accomplishing their STEM initiatives to develop and carry out activities to improve and expand the institution’s capacity to serve Hispanic and low-income students. In 2011, Mesalands was one of eight institutions in the State of New Mexico to receive the U.S Department of Education – Hispanic Serving Institution’s STEM grant.
“Mesalands Community College’s strong partnership with Texas Tech University is one that stretches across various disciplines,” said Dr. Thomas W. Newsom, President of Mesalands Community College. “On behalf of Mesalands, I want to thank Texas Tech University for including our institution in this grant. This grant will provide additional opportunities for our graduates, current students, and future students as well.”
Jerry Dwyer, Mathematics Professor and Director of the STEM Center for Outreach, Research, and Education at Texas Tech University, stated in a news release that a key component of the SPMF program is the mentorship.
“At the community colleges, they’ll be mentored there, and the mentors will get them ready to come here (Texas Tech University). When they come here, we will continue to mentor them for their junior and senior years,” Dwyer said. “This program gives opportunities to people who might not attend a university because of cost. We specifically look to support mathematics students with financial aid.”
The SPMF program will provide scholarships for two students at Mesalands Community College for the 2014-2015 academic year.