Heritage University awarded $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in STEM workforce


Heritage University awarded $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in STEM workforce

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University and its partners will use a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Program for “CRESCENT,” a project to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. CRESCENT, which stands for “Culturally Responsive Education in STEM”, will combine innovative strategies for professional development of STEM faculty, STEM curriculum enhancement through institutional partnerships, offering experiential learning to students through hands-on research experiences and community outreach, and development of intensive culturally-responsive student support services to increase the number and diversity of students pursuing higher education in STEM disciplines.

CRESCENT will be led by Heritage University faculty Dr. Jessica Black, the Director of the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment and the Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences. The program will incorporate students’ unique cultural strengths in the STEM Student Learning Intervention (SSLI) wrap-around services, combining near-peer mentoring, intensive advising, enhanced tutoring, undergraduate research training, and leadership development activities for engaging and supporting underrepresented minority (URM) students in learning. “We have many talented and driven students in our region who are interested in pursuing STEM careers but can sometimes struggle on their journeys and become discouraged. The CRESCENT program is designed to support these students throughout their pathway from high school to graduate school”, said Black.  “CRESCENT program activities will also empower faculty to develop innovative teaching strategies for instructing our diverse students and prepare the next generation of global citizens with a breadth of knowledge and essential life skills to succeed in the rapidly changing environment of the 21stcentury”.

The CRESCENT program will also investigate factors influencing STEM gatekeepers at the most influential and critical educational transitions that are limiting URM student engagement and advancement into STEM careers, testing innovative models transforming these gatekeepers into positive forces. Other goals include expanding a sustainable collaborative network with regional high schools to increase the pool of URM STEM-prepared first-generation freshmen undergraduate students, increase the number of URM student interested in STEM disciplines, improve the performance and retention of URM STEM students, and increase the number of URM students who pursue graduate studies in STEM disciplines after completion of their undergraduate degrees. The project will generate new knowledge on how to improve the retention and graduation of these students, and the outcomes will be shared with other HSIs seeking to grow their numbers of successful students.

Other HU faculty involved with CRESCENT include Dan Sisk, engineering professor and Dr. David Laman, chemistry professor. Project partners will include Dr. Naidu Rayapati, professor/plant pathologist and Director of the Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser, Dr. Rodney Cooper, research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Wapato, and Dr. Matthew Loeser, biology faculty at Yakima Valley College. The CRESCENT program will be funded from September 2019 through August 2024.

For more information contact David Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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