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MCCC STEM Professors Report on Positive S-STEM Grant Results at National Conference

7/3/18


Presenting their findings at the ASEE conference in Salt Lake City are, from left, Professors Richard Porter (Math), Helen Tanzini (Chemistry), Laura Blinderman (Biology) and Jim Maccariella (Engineering).

West Windsor, N.J. – In June, four Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) professors presented findings from their National Science Foundation (NSF) S-STEM grant at the annual American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

According to MCCC Professor Jim Maccariella, Ph.D., P.E., Coordinator for Engineering Science and Civil Engineering Technology, four years into the five-year grant project, Mercer's results are exceeding every objective of the S-STEM grant award.

Participating with Maccariella in the presentation were Professors Laura Blinderman (Biology), Richard Porter (Math), and Helen Tanzini (Chemistry). Their paper was peer reviewed and published as part of the conference proceedings.

The MCCC team reported that results to date have met or exceeded all desired objectives, including 90% student retention, over 60% scholarship awards to underrepresented minorities (URMs), 90% student participation in interventions and advising, and 80% of students graduating or transferring. Feedback from students was also favorable by every measure: engagement and motivation, access to study groups, student relationships, confidence, and access to mentors.

Maccariella credits faculty teamwork as a driving factor in the program's success. "I am very pleased to partner with the dedicated faculty here at Mercer," he said. "They are committed to student success, and take great pride in helping students achieve their goals."

Awarded in 2015, Mercer is one of only a few community colleges nationwide to have secured this type of NSF grant. The S-STEM grant provides up to 120 scholarships for academically talented, full-time STEM students who have a demonstrated financial need. The funding allows students to successfully graduate and/or transfer to a four-year institution in a STEM field. The grant is five years in duration, and is now beginning its fourth year.

The objectives of the program are to: 1) retain at least 75% of the scholars for the duration of the grant; 2) have 50% of the scholars be underrepresented minorities (URMs) or women in STEM disciplines; 3) have the scholars be enrolled full-time and participate in intervention and advising programs as a cohort; and 4) have 75% of the scholars successfully graduate or transfer in a STEM field.

Maccariella notes that the students are supported with both academic and career-building activities. These include attendance at meetings and conferences, seminars, community building, career counseling, and mentoring. Recruitment and retention activities also include a high school summer bridge program, weekly cohort meetings focusing on college success and transfer strategies, and peer tutoring.

The project is designed as a two-year selective program for a cohort of students utilizing nationally recognized strategies to promote STEM success, especially for low-income minority students and veterans.

"The faculty team looks forward to building on the program’s success through continued engagement with motivated, talented students who goal is to graduate or transfer in STEM fields," Maccariella said.

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