National Science Foundation Grant Funds Second Phase of Fellowship Support for Underrepresented Students

Students walking in Riley Ellipse

A leader in STEM professional development for underrepresented students, Villanova University’s Michael Westrate, PhD, Director, Center for Research and Fellowships (CRF), in partnership with Amanda Grannas, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for Research, have received a two-year $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their work titled, Training Successful Trajectories: Interventions to Increase Minority Student and Future Faculty Application and Success Rates. A portion of the grant will fund the expansion of the NSF/STEM Fellowships Summer Support Program for underrepresented students, to be held June 19 - July 24 on Villanova’s campus.

The nation’s minority populations remain significantly underrepresented at the PhD level in all STEM fields, particularly engineering. Program managers at the NSF, and fellowship advisors at colleges and universities, have discovered that many minority students and future faculty—applicants who are otherwise well qualified in education and experience—are underserved in the area of application support, specifically in the development of self-presentation skills necessary to win a major fellowship, get into graduate school, and secure their jobs of choice. The NSF/STEM Fellowships Summer Support Program is free and will focus on supporting students who are part of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP).

The program will consist of five workshop and peer review sessions from June 19 through July 24. The sessions will cover the topics of self-presentation skills, best practices in grant proposal preparation, sources for identifying funding opportunities, NSF grant requirements and the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), the largest multiyear graduate student fellowship program in the United States. By the end of the five-week program, participants will complete a draft of the materials required for their respective funding application, including a research statement and a personal statement.

The NSF/STEM Fellowships Summer Support Program is the second phase of fellowship support for underrepresented students conducted by Villanova. In October 2016, at the Compact for Faculty Diversity’s Institute on Teaching and Mentoring conference, the largest gathering of minority doctoral scholars in the country, Dr. Westrate and CRF ran an eight-part “Boot Camp” with the same goal as this summer’s support program, resulting in 50% of the GRF-eligible participants winning the prestigious multiyear award. Besides helping more underrepresented students win fellowships and successfully apply to graduate school, another important result of the project will be the compilation, analysis and dissemination of the research findings, so future programs for underrepresented STEM students will be able to support their career trajectories more successfully.

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