NSF grant to provide scholarships for low-income engineering students

A whiteboard with engineering equations written on it in black marker. At the far end of the board is a woman in blue, writing on the board.

Campbell University’s School of Engineering announced it has received a National Science Foundation grant to provide scholarships and other support for low-income engineering students who are academically advanced.

The announcement comes on the heels of Assistant Professor Jacqueline Gartner’s collaboration on another NSF grant — this one awarded to her alma mater of Washington State University to provide more engaging, hands-on learning environments for students. Campbell is one of five hubs for that project and will host a workshop in the summer of 2020.

The more recent grant — an S-STEM grant totaling $649,000 — is a big win for Campbell, says Dean Jenna Carpenter, whose staff of Gartner, Associate Dean of Engineering Michele Miller and Assistant Professor Ana Rynearson worked to secure it. The goal with the grant is to make obtaining an engineering degree more accessible to all students, especially to traditionally underserved areas. This includes students from rural areas, first-generation students, underrepresented minorities and those who were not accepted to more established engineering programs.

“This NSF grant will help us support deserving students and their dream of making a difference in the world with a degree in engineering,” Carpenter said. “Receiving a prestigious federal grant like this is a testament to the expertise of our faculty and the quality of our innovative approach to engineering education. We also work hard to attract and retain a broader and more diverse cohort of students. This funding will help position us to continue our success.”

According to Carpenter, underserved students often do not pursue engineering degrees due to lack of role models or adequate high school preparation.

“With building community and culture being the central focus of the project, it presents a laboratory for studying the ways in which students pursue social capital during their college experience,” the project proposal reads. “The Campbell team will use survey responses and interviews to study the ways in which students identify and use resources that build social capital.”

According to Carpenter, approximately half of Campbell’s engineering students qualify for federal financial aid. The grant will award scholarships for up to two years. Students in any year of the program could apply, with awards ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the level of unmet financial need.

The S-STEM grant will have the following objectives: To improve access to an engineering degree for traditionally underserved students and to create a supportive learning community where students give back to high schoolers or younger Campbell students. School officials say the launch of the new program is an ideal time to establish an “ecosystem of effective practices” and to create a culture that fosters a sense of community, shared responsibility and caring for and amongst all students and faculty.”