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Susquehanna Will Open Doors to More Students in the Sciences

Published on September 6, 2011

An NSF Grant Will Open Doors for Biology Students

Susquehanna University will use a grant from the National Science Foundation to support a longstanding national priority, which aims to place American students among the world’s highest achievers in science and math over the next decade.

The university has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to provide financial and programming support for academically qualified biology students who have been historically underrepresented in the sciences. The grant provides almost $600,000 over four years for Susquehanna’s Broadening Intensive Opportunities for Scholarship (BIOS), a program that will offer science scholarships, summer orientation, mentoring, advising, and opportunities for research and internships to select students who demonstrate aptitude and financial need.

One of the three overarching priorities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education identified by President Obama is expanding such education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. Accordingly, recruitment for BIOS, launching for the 2012-13 academic year, will focus on students of color, first-generation college students, those from geographic regions underrepresented at Susquehanna and others whose interest in biology could be fueled with strategic support.

For each of three years, the grant will allow Susquehanna to meet the demonstrated financial need of three groups of 10 high-achieving and underrepresented students who enroll as biology majors. They will take common courses, including a summer “bridge” program and a first-semester seminar that addresses the transition to college. Structured mentoring and opportunities for undergraduate research and internships will play important roles in enhancing the students' experiences both in and out of the classroom.

Because the four-year grant doesn’t cover the cost for 30 participants to attend Susquehanna for four years, the funding will be supplemented from other sources. In addition, Susquehanna’s Center for Teaching and Learning will offer training to faculty, including guidelines for instructing, mentoring and providing participants with opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

“The current trend in outsourcing jobs to other countries has elevated concerns about STEM literacy in the United States, and the future of innovation and discovery in this country,” said Thomas Peeler, associate professor of biology and principal investigator for the NSF grant.
“We are pleased that the NSF funding for BIOS at Susquehanna will create greater opportunities for students to enroll in the biology program, graduate with a degree in biology and become professionals in a STEM field.”

“This program will benefit all students—and faculty and staff—at Susquehanna,” said Lucien T. Winegar, dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences. “It will create a more diverse educational environment, and that’s good for everyone.”

Susquehanna is notably positioned to support the federal STEM initiative, given recent investments in—and a longstanding commitment to—undergraduate science education. The school’s new, LEED-certified science building; reputation for intensive student-faculty collaboration, including the Summer Research Partners program; and science faculty recognized in their respective fields make it a primary choice for students who aspire to employment in a STEM field or enrollment in a STEM graduate program.

BIOS could serve as a model for extending such a program into other majors at the school, Winegar says. “The bottom line,” he said, “is that it will provide access to a college education to students who might not have it otherwise.”


Karen M. Jones

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