HSSU receives $2.25M grant for STEM education

Harris-Stowe State University will receive $2.25 million over five years to boost the number of students graduating with degrees in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. That brings the total that the National Science Foundation has awarded the university since 2008 to more than $6.5 million.

“This grant from the National Science Foundation will be a game changer for Harris-Stowe State University and the region,” said Dwyane Smith, provost and principal investigator at Harris-Stowe.

The focus will be on developing entrepreneurship in the STEM ecosystem and providing unique opportunities for Harris-Stowe students to get field experience, Smith said. Harris-Stowe is collaborating with BioSTL and Saint Louis University to provide STEM opportunities to students such as entrepreneurship, professional mentoring, expanded undergraduate research and an internship program.

The grant is part of the foundation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP), and it’s the third HBCU-UP implementation grant the university has been awarded – receiving $2.5 and $1.8 million in 2008 and 2014 respectively. The foundation established HBCU-UP in 2000 to assist black colleges and universities in their effort to strengthen STEM education.

“Harris-Stowe State University has been ranked number one in the state of Missouri and 47th in the nation in granting degrees in mathematics to African-American students,” said HSSU President Dwaun Warmack. “Within the last year, there has been a significant increase in undergraduate research projects implemented by HSSU students. This new initiative will allow us to continue to increase recruitment, retention and graduation rates of STEM students and continue to be a leader in STEM across the country.”

The initial foundation grant for $2.5 million launched an increase in STEM activity at Harris-Stowe allowing the university to offer Bachelor of Science degree programs in mathematics and biology in 2012.

The university’s academic programs have grown to 59 majors, many of them in STEM disciplines, Smith said. The university also has partnerships with the Goldfarb School of Nursing, the Kansas City University School of Medicine and BioSciences, the Washington University Occupational Therapy Partnership, the Saint Louis University 3+2/3+3 program, and the Missouri Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

“This speaks not only to the reputation of our programs, but also to the quality of our students,” Smith said. “This coming weekend, we will celebrate our largest graduating class in the university’s history.”

This grant will enable the university to “double down” and will enable students to rise up, he said.

“Our retention rate climbs every year, because we have perfected our ‘secret sauce,’ which mandates connecting our students to their peers, our faculty and the community,” Smith said. “We know how to make a diverse student body feel engaged so that they can succeed, so that they can be their best self. These are not just students, these are members of our family in whom we invest everything we’ve got.”

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