Cal State Fullerton awarded a $1.5 million STEM grant

In Campus News, News
Professor Kurwadkar uses a high performance liquid chromatography machine to detect low level concentrates of organic pollutants.
(Joshua Arief Halim / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program was awarded a $1.5 million grant that will fund programs aimed at supporting underrepresented students, according to the CSUF News Center.

The grant will provide 200 undergraduate engineering students this year with the resources to succeed in lower-division courses as well as learn skills that apply to upper-division courses. Over the next five years, the programs provided by this grant will aim to reduce failure rates and increase graduation rates.

Sudarshan Kurwadkar and Jidong Huang are both engineering professors at CSUF and wrote the proposal that was awarded this grant.

“We have the systemic problem of retention, graduation rate and high failure-rate in lower-division courses, so there was this initiative from the NSF (National Science Foundation) under the umbrella of improving undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education particularly towards Hispanic-serving institutions,” said Kurwadkar.

According to the National Science Foundation, CSUF is one of those institutions which is defined as an institution with at least 25 percent or more full-time undergraduates.

The grant will help fund academic intervention resources in classes with high-fail rates, the Student-Teacher Interaction Committee and projects designed for real-life application of skills learned within the major, according to Huang.
“We’re hoping that by developing these new learning modules that are connected with real-world applications, these will better help students understand the problem, not only theoretically, but also practically,” Huang said regarding the programs’ designs.

The grant will recruit up to 200 students from various engineering and computer science disciplines as well as 15 faculty members.

“The focus is also enhancing the content delivery by having more demonstration-based learning as opposed to theoretical learning,” Kurwadkar said.

“We have a plan to train about 15 (faculty members) per year, and with 15 (members) going back to their classes, we may be able to reach more than 1000 students,” Huang said.

While these programs are aimed at underrepresented minority students in the STEM field, eligibility for the grant is not solely restricted to them. Any students are eligible to the program if they are in their first two years and are majoring in Engineering or Computer Science, Huang said.

Huang said his goal is to get at least 20 percent of the 200 students to be female.

“Anybody that is enrolled in lower-division engineering and math courses is a beneficiary. We would like to have 60 percent population from the Hispanic community, but that’s the objective,” Kurwadker added.

As implementation is still being completed, students can expect to hear more before next month when the program is projected to start. Potential members are not expected to reach out as they will be recruiting students via email later in the fall, Huang said.

“We want to know why there is a gap and how we can help to reduce that gap,” Huang said. “And we recognize that for underrepresented students, it’s not just academic support.”

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