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CI Receives $6 million grant to promote STEM

CSU Channel Islands (CI) has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for nearly $6 million to help Hispanic and low income students gain greater access to a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

The grant is for $1,199,297 for the first year with plans to re-issue the same amount each year for five years for a total of $5,999,170.

The grant funds Project PROMESAS (Pathways with Regional Outreach and Mathematics Excellence for Student Achievement in STEM), which is aimed at strengthening STEM student pathways to and through college and transforming collegiate calculus courses to help retain students, and help them graduate.

CI Executive Director of Student Academic Success & Equity Amanda Quintero, Ph.D., said Project PROMESAS will address gaps in student readiness for college upon graduation from high school.

"We have a major challenge in this region with increasing diversity in our STEM pipeline," said Quintero, who co-authored the grant. "The students who are disproportionately impacted are Latino."

With CI's incoming freshman class, 60 percent of Latino students are placed into developmental math courses as compared to 50 percent of the incoming freshman population overall. This increases the coursework needed and delays their beginning college-level STEM courses, making it more likely that they might change majors, take longer to graduate, or leave college altogether.

"That's adding valuable time that costs money," Quintero said. "Our goal is to work with regional community colleges and high schools to develop expedited pathways through developmental math to expand students' options to major in a STEM field, while also reducing time necessary for students to complete their degrees."

The grant will be used to identify barriers in the regional STEM pipeline for pre-school through graduate school. In addition to math preparedness, particular emphasis will be placed on student success in math courses needed for STEM majors.

Professor of Mathematics Cynthia Wyels, Ph.D., said grant money will be used to enhance college calculus classes to help more students succeed.

"National failure rates for calculus average around 40%; at CI they're in this ballpark. If you take 100 potential STEM majors and lose 40% at each of three steps - calculus preparation and two semesters of calculus, only 22 students emerge," Wyels said. "Our goal is to halve that failure rate, thus preserving STEM opportunities for vast numbers of students. If we can do this regionally, with our demographics, we'll provide a model nationally."

Increasing student success rates through the mathematics courses needed for STEM majors, especially for Hispanic students, will produce a larger and more diverse pool of students completing degrees in STEM fields. The work to do so will involve faculty from CI and regional community colleges, recognizing that students take courses in the STEM math sequence at a variety of institutions regionally.

There will also be a multi-pronged effort to streamline the pathway to a STEM education, and it will start early.

Professor of Chemistry Phil Hampton, Ph.D., will focus on building the pipeline of STEM-ready high school graduates. The grant will support the continuation of Hampton's colorful Science Carnival, build a Promise Pathway to STEM with the Oxnard school districts leading to Oxnard College and to CI. It will also support CI in leading the Ventura County STEM network (VC STEM).

There will also be outreach for first generation college students and their parents to build knowledge regarding college-readiness in STEM.

"The pipeline to college begins in preschool and kindergarten and, as a campus and through our involvement in VC STEM, CI is committed to building the STEM pipeline with the goal of increasing the STEM readiness of graduating high school students," Hampton said.

CSU Channel Islands (CI), October 4, 2016.

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