$6 million grant will boost STEM

Emily Lau
Editor in Chief

Associate Professor of Biology and Director of La Verne Experience Kat Weaver, the Office of Sponsored Research and a team of faculty members received a Title III – Hispanic Serving Institution grant of $6 million from the Department of Education to help Latino students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields.

After looking at data of Latino students in STEM majors at the University, the team proposed a strategy to help improve not only retention rate, but also the students’ success.

The team composed of faculty members including Professors of Biology Jerome Garcia and Christine Broussard, Associate Professor of Physics David Chappell and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Gail Tang.

“While most of the funds will enhance recruitment, retention and graduation rates of students in STEM fields, the grant will benefit all students through added support for student mentoring, the Academic Success Center and data analysis,” Provost Jonathan Reed said in an email to faculty Nov. 3.

Weaver said she attended a conference early in the year where she learned about 700 students in the United States leave STEM fields every hour.

“It’s a huge national problem for students leaving STEMs, but in particular Hispanic students, women except in biology and students from a low socioeconomic status are very underrepresented in STEM,” Weaver said.

The proposed program hopes to build a foundation and support for not only STEM majors, but also students taking STEM classes.

“Everybody has to take math, so we will support students through those courses as well,” Weaver said.

Weaver said the University is looking to hire two peer mentor coordinators who will run a program where students taking upper division courses can help those in lower division courses.

The grant will also help establish a math preparatory camp that will be open to students of all majors.

The camp will help students on their math placement test that they take before starting their first semester at the University in hopes of them testing out of math or into a higher level course, Weaver said.

Faculty will also be trained to better assist students in learning.

Other projects include financial aid for students, textbook lending library and student workers development.

For her accomplishment, Weaver was promoted to Associate Dean for Learning, Innovation and Teaching where she can continue to manage the grant, direct the La Verne Experience and operate Career Services, the Academic Success Center and Faculty Develop­ment and Academic Assessment with Director of Center of for Advancement of Faculty Excellence Sammy Elzarka.

“For me, it’s about the students, and I will be successfully if we are retaining more students and students are succeeding at higher levels, I mean that’s really what it’s about,” Weaver said. “I don’t really see it as growth, I see it as taking of what we have and supporting our people.”

Emily Lau can be reached at emily.lau@laverne.edu.

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