The U.S. Department of Education — through its Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) STEM and Articulation Program — has awarded Santa Monica College (SMC) a five-year grant totaling nearly $5 million dollars ($4,944,951) specifically for its Engage, Succeed, and Advance in STEM (ESA-STEM) project. Through this grant, SMC will serve Hispanic and lower-income students majoring in STEM by providing outreach events, STEM Makerspace programming, establishing an application-based program called “Maximizing Achievement in STEM” — “MÁS” in short (for “more” in Spanish) — for underrepresented STEM students, among other activities.

The third such five-year federal STEM grant, it will enable SMC to expand and build upon the activities of the prior grants received in 2011 and 2016 in order to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income community college students attaining STEM degrees as well as to develop model transfer and articulation agreements for new and emerging STEM majors.

“It is truly momentous that Santa Monica College has received another such federal grant, to allow our academically rigorous, highly-supportive STEM program to take even greater steps to help more deserving students find their niche in STEM,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery. “Furthermore, a 2021 Pew Research Center study found that Hispanic workers make up 17 percent of total employment across all occupations but represented only 8 percent of the STEM workforce. This is a very significant equity gap, but one I am confident Santa Monica College will help fill in the years ahead, through this grant.”

At Santa Monica College, STEM students avail themselves of specialized courses, free counseling, tutoring and supplemental instruction, peer mentorship, and professional development workshops geared towards equipping them for success in STEM careers.

Through the new grant, students will have access to expanded supplemental instruction in critical STEM courses, and the new MÁS program—which is modeled on CUNY’s successful ASAP model—will provide enhanced wraparound support services for enrolled students, inclusive of academic & specific STEM-based financial aid counseling, and mental health support through a dedicated STEM therapist/case manager.

The grant will also support the launch of the new SMC STEM Makerspace and Engineering computer lab as well as development of Makerspace programming in order to offer hands-on experience to STEM students (building upon the currently offered courses Engineering 1 and Science 10, Principles & Practice of Scientific Research) and the opportunity to establish partnerships for new engagement/activities both on- and off- campus.

In addition, the college’s ESA-STEM project will provide students with work-based learning experiences—internships—in collaboration with SMC’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development, and regional partners such as The Center for a Competitive Workforce at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

Vanan Yahnian, SMC STEM project manager, said that the third HSI STEM grant is “a testament to the hard work of all the instructors, counselors, and student support staff who meet our students where they are, building upon the foundation laid by so many forward-thinking educators and STEM advocates like former SMC Associate Dean for STEM & Student Equity Dr. Melanie Bocanegra.”

“We will continue in our efforts to always center students and offer them the support they need to pursue and achieve their STEM goals,” Yahnian said. “Our new Makerspace will also play a pivotal role in offering STEM students critical hands-on experiences, enhancing existing opportunities offered through the STEM program’s internship, externship, and research partnerships.”

SMC offers options for study in numerous STEM fields including biology, pre-medicine biology, chemistry, earth science, computer programming, physics, engineering, mathematics, and much more. STEM majors at SMC have gone on to intern at NASA-JPL, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), UCLA, UC Berkeley, Cal Poly Pomona, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Station1 (a social justice focused STEM research program which has placed underrepresented SMC students in internships at Harvard & Boston-based startups), Base11 (which has placed students at UC Irvine, Caltech, USC, & the Smithsonian), and more.

For more information, visit smc.edu/STEM or email Yahnian_Vanan@smc.edu.

Submitted by Grace Smith, SMC