Saint Mary’s College Receives $2.7 Million HSI Federal Grant To Expand STEM Education Opportunities

Saint Mary’s College of California has received a $2.7 million Hispanic Serving Institutions Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (HSI STEM) and Articulation program grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The federal grant will support Caminos a Las Ciencias (CALC): Pathways to Science, a new strategic initiative designed to significantly enhance and expand the curriculum and resources offered to Saint Mary’s Hispanic and low-income students. The HSI STEM award will also enable the College to advance learning outcomes for all students enrolled in STEM degree programs.

“We are extremely proud to receive this HSI STEM grant,” said Provost Bethami Dobkin. “This award reflects the work of faculty and staff across campus who are committed to the College’s mission of academic excellence, and who exemplify our Catholic and Lasallian ideals of inclusion and access to education. The awarding of this grant to Saint Mary’s officially recognizes the College at the federal level as a Hispanic Serving Institution, which has been one of our institutional goals.”

Saint Mary’s CALC program is a comprehensive, strengths-based project designed to create a pipeline of talented STEM graduates from Hispanic and low-income households. The program also features a partnership with Los Medanos College, a two-year community college, and a fellow Hispanic Serving Institution, located in Pittsburg, Calif. The partnership includes development of a direct STEM student transfer process, or articulation agreement.

Vice Provost for Enrollment Hernan Bucheli, said the grant helps Saint Mary’s formalize an important bridge for community college students into a four-year institution. “The CALC articulation partnership will expand educational opportunities for Hispanic and low-income students at Los Medanos, and help foster partnerships with other Hispanic Serving Institutions in the Bay Area. This innovative pathway-to-science initiative allows talented students to pursue their higher education goals and achieve success in college and their personal and professional lives.”

School of Science Dean Roy Wensley, who serves as the principal investigator and project lead for CALC, believes the innovative program will advance the success of Latino/a students and low-income students in STEM disciplines. “These are populations that are underrepresented in the STEM workforce, and that has to change. This grant will help us do that by funding key student services, faculty and curriculum development. The grant will also assist in the establishment of a planned STEM Center that provides tutoring activities and will support Saint Mary’s culture of inclusion and student success in the School of Science.”

Each year, during the grant cycle, the program will target services to 262 students, including 171 Hispanic and low-income STEM majors and 91 undeclared first-year Hispanic and low-income students who intend to major in STEM disciplines. CALC program services will also be made available to all STEM students at Saint Mary’s, expanding the grant’s impact to almost 600 students annually.

“I think this award will have a wide-ranging impact. While pedagogy and academic support that targets Latino/a students will be implemented and assessed, improvements in education always influence the teaching techniques and resources available to all students who are STEM majors,” said Wensley.

CALC’s emphasis includes a focus on first-year student retention, support systems to promote gateway course completion, academic standing, six-year graduation completion rates, numbers of transfer students on track to earn a degree within three years of transfer and the graduation of all participants in a STEM major of their choice.

Saint Mary’s STEM disciplines include allied health sciences, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, earth and environmental science, math, physics and psychology.

The five-year grant is funded through the DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Education, which works to strengthen the capacity of U.S. colleges and universities and expand access to higher education. The Office’s HSI STEM grants are intended to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students attaining degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics; and to develop model transfer and articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions in such fields.