The Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology has poured resources into the state’s colleges over the past few years to boost the relationship between industry and STEM education opportunities.
But it doesn’t mean much if the programs, which run the gamut from cybersecurity and drones to health care and advanced manufacturing, fail to reach a broad spectrum of students, according to Brian Mitchell, director of the OSIT.
“We want to broaden the reach of STEM,” Mitchell said. “The end result is a really good job, a high-paying job, and we want to make sure as many people as possible get those jobs.”
A new $1 million grant from the OSIT will give the College of Southern Nevada the opportunity to strengthen STEM education in underrepresented student populations, including minority, female and impoverished students.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with faculty and staff to dream big on innovative things we could be doing to attract more students to STEM,” said Margo Martin, interim vice president of transition activities at CSN. “And to help students to overcome all kinds of obstacles and barriers that stand in their way.”
The grant represents the beginning of a four-year partnership between the state and CSN with the goal of finding strategies that meet the needs of students and can be replicated at other colleges and universities in Nevada.
A major part of the project will create a mini-grant competition that will launch in January and will allow faculty members to submit proposals with the goal of increasing enrollment, retention and completion outcomes for underrepresented students in STEM certificate and degree programs.
“I think it’s really solid,” Mitchell said. “It’s a process where they’ll award micro-grants to test ideas. And the ideas that show the most promise, they’ll continue to grow, sustain and scale up.”
Martin said areas that faculty might focus on include undergraduate research opportunities, harnessing the power of technology, support services, supplemental instruction or STEM boot camps.
Another major part of the project is the creation of a project coordinator who will serve as the point of contact for many first generation STEM students.
“I’m really looking forward to looking at the results,” Mitchell said.