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New grants enhance St. Olaf diversity efforts

By David Gonnerman '90
December 20, 2007

Two newly awarded grants to St. Olaf College will help open career paths for traditionally underrepresented students. A National Science Foundation S-STEM grant will support a program called "Biologists for the Future" that encourages students to pursue careers in biology. The second grant, a TRiO/McNair grant through the U.S. Department of Education, will support a program designed to spur students to pursue teaching careers in higher education. Aimed at first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students, the grants together enhance the college's growing emphasis on promoting diversity.

ScienceLab
St. Olaf's nationally recognized strengths in interdisciplinary and research-focused science education are catalysts for such programs as "Biologists for the Future."
"Biologists for the Future" draws upon St. Olaf's nationally recognized strengths in interdisciplinary and research-focused science education. The NSF grant of $600,000 over five years is part of the national STEM initiative that seeks to increase study in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The grant to St. Olaf will provide scholarships and special support for about a dozen biology students annually. Recipients will benefit from supplemental instruction, career exploration and a new summer course focused on writing for science. Other activities will include career-oriented field trips, seminars, workshops and involvement in summer research and internships.

The McNair Scholars Program is a federally funded national program that encourages low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students to pursue doctoral study and consider careers in higher education. The $1.2 million, five-year St. Olaf grant is set to support 27 undergraduate students annually as they gain research experience and undergo rigorous preparation for graduate school. McNair Scholars will participate in career-oriented internships and be paired with faculty mentors who share research interests.

Adding to the mix
GacheruIan '10
Ian Gacheru is one of the first St. Olaf students to benefit from the S-STEM mathematics grant.
The new grants are part of a set of programs that together will help make St. Olaf attractive to a larger and more diverse pool of prospective students. Existing programs include the $500,000 four-year S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation that began this academic year. Called "Encouraging Careers in the Mathematical Sciences," the grant includes scholarship and other forms of support for 12-15 students annually (currently 13) who demonstrate financial need -- especially students from tradionally underrepresented groups. The money will help reduce student loans and can even be applied toward such programs as the successful St. Olaf mathematics course in Budapest, Hungary.

"These programs allow St. Olaf students to give careful consideration to their choice of major without having to worry about financial considerations,"says Professor of Mathematics Matthew Richey, one of the administrators of the mathematics grant.

Other diversity-related programs at St. Olaf include:
  • Four TRiO programs with combined annual funding of $1.5 million: the college preparatory programs Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search and GEAR UP, and the Student Support Services (SSS) retention program for current students
  • The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation/North Star Alliance, a group of Minnesota schools that hopes to double the number of baccalaureate degrees earned by groups that are historically underrepresented in the STEM fields
  • YoungInvestigators05
    St. Olaf faculty member Gene Bakko (center) provides some ornithology tips to a visiting group of 'Young Investigators,' one of St. Olaf's college prep programs for high school students.
    The Young Investigators Program that introduces up to 20 9th- and 10th-grade students to biology and psychology research through an annual week-long summer program
  • The TRiO/SSS Summer Bridge Program that brings up to 40 incoming St. Olaf students to campus to assist them with the transition from high school to college

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or gonnermd@stolaf.edu.