NSF awards NDSU $1.4 million grant to fund scholarships and support for low-income students

Photo by: NDSU - Facebook
Photo by: NDSU - Facebook

(Fargo, ND) -- The NDSU Department of Biological Sciences has been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation for their project, “Partnering with Rural and Low-income Students for Academic Success in the Biological Sciences.” The award will go toward funding student scholarships for low-income students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and creating career and academic support for STEM degree completion.

The goal of the project is to increase degree persistence for high-achieving, low-income students from rural areas interested in STEM fields. Students who receive a scholarship also will have the opportunity to participate in the Herd Scholars program, a two-year cohort curriculum that provides students with academic and career support through learning communities, undergraduate research and internship experiences, mentorship programs and preparation for graduate school and employment.

“We are so excited to receive this grant because all of the funding received is to be used to improve opportunities for our undergraduate students majoring in biological sciences,” said Angela Hodgson, professor of practice in the Department of Biological Sciences and principal investigator for the grant. “Though a high percentage of students at NDSU are from rural areas, nationally rural students are underrepresented in STEM graduate programs and careers. We hope that the funds from this grant will help us to improve our recruitment and graduation rates for these students and contribute to increasing the number of highly skilled workers interested in working in rural areas.”

Over its six-year duration, the project will fund scholarships to 28 unique full-time first-year or transfer students. The department plans to partner with high school guidance counselors, teachers and Native American partner organizations to recruit eligible students. The project will begin as early as this fall with the first group of Herd Scholars.

“For the past 10 years, the Department of Biological Sciences has been focusing on implementing high impact practices that have been shown to improve undergraduate success, such as using active learning to teach our introductory biology courses and providing all of our majors with an opportunity to participate in a course-based undergraduate research experience,” said Hodgson. “Even with these programs in place, however, we knew that many of our students struggle with the cost of college. In addition, data on regional employment projects high rates of growth in biological science-related jobs over the next decade. So, this grant will now allow us to eliminate some of the stress experienced by our students with financial need and, at the same time, hopefully increase the number of low-income and rural students entering careers in biological sciences-related fields.”

The benefits of the grant also extend into the community. Hodgson said the grant will allow the department to understand what skills industry partners are looking for to better prepare graduates entering the workforce.

“There is a great need for STEM professionals at the local and national level. NDSU is committed to providing both accessible and exceptional education to students so they can excel in these careers,” said NDSU President David Cook.

The project is funded by NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields.