The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Hispanic-Serving Institution Program has awarded Santa Monica College (SMC) a grant that will total nearly $2.5 million over five years. The grant—entitled “Fostering an Equity-Minded Student Success Culture – STEM through Faculty Development”—will allow SMC to consolidate the work of its STEM Science and Research Initiative and the Center for Teaching Excellence to develop an equity-minded student success culture, one that helps traditionally underrepresented students succeed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields and careers.

The NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, businesses and research organizations throughout the United States. Through its Hispanic-Serving Institution Program, the NSF focuses on enhancing the quality of undergraduate STEM education at HSIs, and seeks to increase the retention and graduation rates of students pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees in STEM.

“The National Science Foundation is committed to supporting projects like this, with the potential to create more inclusive learning experiences and ensure that STEM undergraduate students have the support they need to achieve their educational goals,” said NSF Program Director Talitha Washington. “Beyond looking at students, this project will engage faculty, helping them develop effective strategies to create a culturally diverse student population.”

The five-year grant will allow SMC’s STEM Program to bring together and capitalize on the equity-focused work of the Science and Research Initiative and the Center of Teaching Excellence to study and create interventions that affect the success of students in STEM, including the use of curriculum and instructional practices. The work will take place under a “three-pronged” approach: professional development for faculty; pilot and assessment of research-based innovations; and dissemination of the project’s outcomes both within SMC and with higher educational institutions across California and the U.S.

“The impact of this grant will extend well beyond the length of its tenure,” said SMC Earth Science Professor Dr. Ciaran Brewster, who will be one of the grant’s co-principal investigator along with Director of Academic Affairs Initiatives Edna Chavarry (Associate Dean of Student Equity & STEM Programs Dr. Melanie Bocanegra is the principal investigator). “A major focus of our work will be on ensuring that new faculty are exposed to evidence-based, equity-minded teaching practices while also facilitating the adoption of such practices inside and outside of the classroom. While our focus is on STEM, this work will serve as a template that all disciplines can adopt.”

The “real winners,” stated Brewster, are “our students, who will be able to pursue the highest quality education at an institution that is mindful and proactively seeking to close the equity gaps that can impede their success.”

“The vision and hard work that SMC faculty & staff put into this singular approach and grant proposal to help more traditionally underrepresented students succeed in STEM is exemplary,” said Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC Superintendent/President. “This approach—of identifying and adopting effective practices to build the kind of culture that will encourage students to persist and succeed—will go a long way in diversifying the STEM workforce and also help build an even better, more equitable Santa Monica College!”

Submitted by Grace Smith, SMC Public Information Officer

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