Thanks to nearly $750,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation, the University of Southern Maine is providing scholarships to 41 students in the STEM disciplines, and developing policies to improve recruitment and advancement of female professors in the STEM and social science fields.
Some 19 students are at USM this fall thanks to the program, which awards scholarships of up to $5,000 per year per student. When fully implemented, it will improve educational opportunities for up to 41 incoming USM freshmen and community college transfer students.
"This NSF support has opened up new opportunities for deserving Maine students who want to study the sciences, technology, engineering or math," said Dr. Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh, USM's associate vice president for research, scholarship, and creative activity, and professor of environmental science. "It also will help us build a more diverse faculty that can serve our non-traditional and female students."
The scholarships are made possible with a $592,000 grant from the NSF STEM Scholarship Program. The students must be Maine residents, meet academic and financial criteria, and plan on pursuing careers in the fields of computer science, engineering, environmental science, and technology management.
A portion of the $592,000 will support 20 first-time students during their freshmen and sophomore years. A total of $200,000 in USM scholarship funds will then support these students during their junior and senior years.
The NSF scholarship funds also will support 21 community college transfer students at USM for up to three years.
USM's partner high schools in the scholarship program include Casco Bay, Deering and Portland High Schools in Portland, South Portland High School and Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, as well as Central Maine, Southern Maine and York County Community Colleges.
In addition to the $592,000 scholarship grant, the NSF recently awarded USM a grant worth over $150,000 to fund the "Southern Maine ADVANCE IT Catalyst" project.
This grant funds a study to determine how USM can better recruit, retain and advance female faculty members in the sciences, technology, engineering and math fields, as well as in the social and behavioral sciences. The study will identify best practices at similar institutions, and will fund an analysis of workload trends and the characteristics of a campus culture that tend to retain female faculty in those disciplines.
The goal is to help build a faculty that can serve as role models to women students, especially older women with families and women veterans, and improve the university's efforts to recruit and retain more women students in these disciplines.