Penn State Altoona Receives Record-Setting Grant - Winter 2008 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Winter 2008

Penn State Altoona Receives Record-Setting Grant

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a grant of $599,793 to Penn State Altoona. The funds will be used for a project titled, “Improved Recruitment and Retention through Academic and Financial Support.” The grant is the largest single grant in the history of Penn State Altoona. Including this grant, Penn State Altoona has received nearly $2 million in NSF funding since the fall of 2000.

Chancellor Lori J. Bechtel notes, “These are among the most competitive grants awarded to university faculty; it is a tribute to the quality and hard work of our faculty and staff that the college has done so well. Any grant from NSF is good news because the proposal process is so highly competitive; however, this particular grant is especially good news because it will directly benefit our students now and our communities when they graduate.”

Peter Shull, associate professor of engineering, is the principal investigator of the grant. Co-principle investigators are Paula Ford, coordinator of the Learning Resources Center, and L.A. Wilson II, assistant dean for research and sponsored programs.

NSF provided this grant through its Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program. The Penn State Altoona project will provide annual scholarship support for thirty to thirty-five engineering technology students enrolled either in a “2+2” program for associate/bachelor’s degree candidates or a traditional four-year baccalaureate degree program. The project focuses on engineering technology, for which there is a critical shortage of workers in central Pennsylvania as well as nationally.

Students will have to meet admissions criteria for a Penn State Altoona engineering technology program as well as enroll full time to be eligible for the S-STEM scholarships. The amounts awarded will be based on academic ability, financial need, and other criteria.

In addition to financial support for students, the S-STEM project will provide comprehensive academic support activities, including a summer bridge program to develop a sense of community among each year’s scholars; a follow-on first-year success seminar for scholars; critical support for students in introductory mathematics courses; and active mentoring by upper-level student peers and faculty.

“By providing specific, targeted academic support, we hope to ensure that our students will be retained to graduation,” states Ford. “Even for talented students who meet the admissions criteria for the engineering technology programs, math can become a stumbling block. The specific support should help. Additionally, students who get S-STEM scholarships probably will not have to get part-time jobs while they are in college, so this should help them to have more time to focus on their education.”

Penn State Altoona offers electrical and mechanical associate degree programs in engineering technology and a baccalaureate degree program in electro-mechanical engineering technology. All of the programs are accredited by ABET.

Scholarships under this program were awarded beginning with the class admitted for fall 2007.

For more information, please contact Dr. Peter Shull, and put STEM in the subject line.