posted September 18, 2007

Grant to Support Students from Community Colleges

A major new grant to Hope College from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide scholarship aid to community-college students who are interested in continuing their education in the sciences at Hope.

The scholarships will support students who transfer to Hope to major in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, the geological and environmental sciences, mathematics or physics after completing work at a community college. The $564,360 grant has been awarded through the NSF's "Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics" (S-STEM) program. It is one of approximately 90 new S-STEM awards made nationwide this year.

"Hope has a proven record of success in preparing students for successful careers in the sciences, but historically most of our students have gone through our entire four-year program. We believe we also have a lot to offer to students who have completed a two-year degree and are seeking the additional career options made available through a four-year degree," said Dr. Herb Dershem, who is the Hope initiative's coordinator and also a professor of computer science. "We hope that by providing additional scholarship assistance and enhancing our outreach to community colleges in the region that we can help make attending Hope a reality for them."

The program will provide scholarships of up to $10,000 per year to eight transferring students each year for three years, with the scholarships renewable for a second year for each student who meets eligibility requirements. The goal is to have the first set of students arrive on campus in the fall of 2008, with additional groups supported through the program beginning in 2009 and 2010.

The scholarship aid, however, is only part of the program, according to Dershem. Each incoming student will also be given the opportunity to participate in collaborative research full-time with a Hope faculty member during the summer before beginning classes at the college. In 2007, some 180 students participated in summer research in the sciences at Hope.

"They will be offered a research position to come and work here in their chosen field," Dershem said. "That's a great way to orient them to campus and for them to meet other students and faculty. It gets them involved right away."

The college will also provide program support during the school year to help the students make the transition to Hope as transfer students, including through an orientation geared toward them specifically, career counseling, peer mentoring and other activities.

"The idea is not just to provide the scholarship, but to also provide the climate, the environment, on campus to help assure that the students who receive the scholarships are successful," Dershem said.

The scholarships will be available to any students transferring after completing work at a community college, but Hope will be focusing recruitment efforts on six institutions within Michigan specifically: Grand Rapids Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Lansing Community College, Muskegon Community College and Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Dershem has already started working with faculty and administrators at the six schools to help promote the program, and hopes to identify prospective students early so that they can begin to shape their coursework at the community colleges in anticipation of enrolling at Hope.