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Faculty use new grant to plan STEM pathways for underrepresented students

By Robbyn Hopewell
Published May 27, 2021
Categories: About Eckerd, Academics
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Aryelle Lipscomb ’22 builds a self-playing xylophone in a STEM class for first-year students led by Physics Shop Supervisor Paul Fratiello

Professor of Marine Science and Geosciences Laura Wetzel will gather a team of Eckerd College faculty and staff to create a detailed plan on how to recruit, support and encourage Black, Indigenous and Latinx high-schoolers to attend Eckerd and then go on to pursue Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This work is made possible by a $49,960 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“To start, we will work on diversity training and professional development,” Wetzel said. “We have hired a consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and we will be reading books and having discussions to educate ourselves before we begin the task of writing a five-year recruitment and retention plan for Black, Indigenous and Latinx STEM students.”

Eckerd’s planning group includes Wetzel, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jalisa Ferguson, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Greg Felton, Professor of Computer Science Kelly Debure, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Lindsey Fox, Assistant Professor of Marine Science Amy Siuda, Professor of Physics Anne Cox, Associate Professor of Classics Heather Vincent, Fellowship and Scholarship Advisor Kat Robinson, Director of Admission Jacob Browne, Assistant Vice President for Advancement Justine Sanford and Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Associate Research Scientist Dominique Lazzare ’06.

According to the grant proposal, the team plans to “develop a detailed plan to recruit students, weave our science for the common good approach into curricular and co-curricular programming, create a program structure that prepares students for graduate school success, and ensure program sustainability. The planning grant will also be used for two faculty to develop a science for the common good team-taught course and for a reading and discussion group for the planning team to engage in literature surrounding DEI and STEM.”

At the end of the year, Eckerd plans to reapply to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for an implementation grant to launch the pilot program in 2022 that would enroll the first cohort of five students in Fall 2023, recruiting an additional five students every year.

By Fall 2026, the program would have enrolled and supported a total of 20 students and would expect that at least 45% will proceed to enroll in a graduate STEM program within five years after graduating from Eckerd.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a not-for-profit, mission-driven grantmaking institution dedicated to improving the welfare of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge. Founded in 1934 by industrialist Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the Foundation disburses approximately $80 million in grants each year in four broad areas: direct support of research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics; initiatives to increase the quality and diversity of scientific institutions and the science workforce; projects to develop or leverage technology to empower research; and efforts to enhance and deepen public engagement with science and scientists.