S-STEM team

The interdisciplinary team of Appalachian State University faculty members that secured a $1 million S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation pose on Appalachian’s campus. From bottom to top, left to right: College of Arts and Sciences Dean Neva J. Specht; Brooke Hester, Department of Physics and Astronomy; Jennifer Cecile, Department of Chemistry; Andy Heckert, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences; Rahman Tashakkori, Department of Computer Science; Cindy Norris, Department of Computer Science; Dru Henson, College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office; Trina Palmer, Department of Mathematical Sciences; Jennifer McGee, Department of Curriculum and Instruction; and Mitch Parry, Department of Computer Science.

BOONE — A National Science Foundation-funded scholarship program at Appalachian State University aims to help address the nation’s shortage in STEM graduates and workers.

The program’s leaders — a cross-disciplinary team of faculty members from Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Reich College of Education — have received an NSF S-STEM grant to establish a Type II program. This grant allocates up to $1 million to establish a five-year, multidisciplinary program titled The Appalachian High Achievers in STEM.

The program will build on successes and lessons learned from previous projects with similar objectives, such as STEP: Appalachian Undergraduate Academy of Science (2008-13) and the recently completed S-STEM: High Achievers in Computer Science and Mathematics (2013-17) project.

NSF scholarships worth $6,000 a year will be awarded to students based on academic ability and financial need, and focus on students in the region planning to obtain STEM degrees. The funding will cover up to eight semesters of study for undergraduate students and up to four semesters of study for graduate students in the chemistry, computer science, geological and environmental sciences, mathematical sciences and physics and astronomy degree programs.

“The goal of the program is to attract financially needy and academically talented students in the participating disciplines and help them succeed in the attempt to increase the number of workers in these fields,” said Rahman Tashakkori, chair of Appalachian’s Department of Computer Science and director of the university’s NSF S-STEM scholarship program.

In addition to financial support, students will receive mentoring from faculty and from student peers. Each student in the S-STEM program will be paired with a faculty mentor within their respective discipline with whom they can talk about coursework or other matters of concern or interest. Moreover, graduate and upper-level students will help mentor new students in the program.

“This program offers both financial and academic support to recruit, retain and excite students about STEM careers. It offers a chance to view the various disciplines and to see how they can be integrated into research,” said Neva J. Specht, dean of Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences. “It will provide the type of training that will be exactly what the 21st-century employers or graduate programs are looking for.”

Students are placed on teams in which they work on service and research projects together. To support student learning, study halls for common core classes are available along with a mentoring corner for extra help. Leadership and internship workshops, resume building and community activities are part of the programmatic structure as well.

“This funding provides the scholars of the program opportunities to build a strong community, conduct research and mentor each other. Our students perform better with mentoring and engagement in research,” Tashakkori said.

For more information about the NSF S-STEM scholarship program at Appalachian, contact the Department of Computer Science at 828-262-2370 or visit http://www.cs.appstate.edu/sstem.

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