NAU, AWC get $600,000 each in science grants
In light of drastic cuts in state aid for higher education, welcome news arrived for aspiring Yuma scientists who got a shot in the arm toward realizing career goals thanks to the National Science Foundation.
Arizona Western College and Northern Arizona University-Yuma administrators each proudly announced awards of $600,000 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) grants Monday. Funds will provide scholarships for two groups of 15 to 25 incoming science students. Mary Schaal, AWC director for research and grants and grant author, noted it was an exciting day for the AWC/NAU partnership.
“There was a great deal of competition for the grants and the fact that we we’re so successful that we have two grants out of 87 distributed after more than 200 applied is rewarding,” Schaal said.
AWC recipients can get up to $8,695 per year for two years while NAU-Yuma students may see up to $10,000 per year for two years. Funds will also help students attend science conferences and obtain internships. And a portion of grant money will hire academic coaches to tutor STEM scholars with selected courses.
Don Schoening, AWC president, said the grants go a long way to improving science education in the community.
“This grant is our best shot of ensuring success of the students, and let me express my appreciation of our network of support. I can now see why these programs are so successful,” Schoening said.
Larry Gould, NAU campus executive officer, said the grants provide opportunities for students to focus more on studies and not have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. He added that the grants not only create educational opportunity but an environment where students do not merely learn to take tests, but come to learn.
“What I see here today is three people from two institutions to make a better place for our students. If it was not for our students there would be no need for us to be here,” Gould said.
The three he was referring to, in addition to Schaal, were the two professors who assisted her, AWC’s Cecilia Vigil, professor of biology and NAU professor of environmental science, Tim Whittier.
Vigil and Whittier agreed the timing of the grant could not have been better since AWC just inaugurated the Science & Agriculture Building, and next month NAU opens its Biology and Environmental Science Building.
Vigil said the grants give academically talented students who tend to be low-income and are underrepresented in the sciences a chance to get a 4-year bachelor’s degree.
“This inevitably benefits the community, because we will now have prepared technologically competent scientists who will join the work force of the community,” Vigil said.
Whittier acknowledged the grant was a result of a team effort of administrators, faculty and staff. He said that while it will eventually provide scholarships to more than 100 students, it is just a first step to what he hopes to be even greater community support.
“This offers students with tutoring, field trips and opportunities to network with other scientists, and the real positive thing is they will gain real-world experience outside of the classroom,” Whittier said.
Scholarships are awarded through a competitive application process. Eligible students include incoming AWC freshmen and NAU-Yuma juniors who can show an academic talent, financial need and are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Applications will be available from March 15 through May 1.
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