The National Science Foundation has awarded Knox College a $613,846 grant for a new initiative that contributes to the country's efforts to increase the number of U.S. college graduates working in science-related fields.
The grant will support Knox's innovative plan to offer academic and financial support to students interested in careers in biology, chemistry, and biochemistry.
The new initiative, Creating Opportunities and Access in Science and Technology (COAST), will be directed by Knox faculty members Mary Crawford, professor and chair of chemistry (at right in the photo above, working with a Knox student); Andrew Mehl, professor of chemistry; and Jennifer Templeton, associate professor of biology.
Knox's grant is part of the National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, designed to help students enter the workforce or pursue graduate studies in STEM-related fields. The grant will cover a five-year period, from September 1, 2013, to August 31, 2018.
COAST will prioritize first-generation college students and students who are from groups underrepresented in STEM fields.
Crawford, the lead director of COAST and a Knox College graduate, said her own experiences as a first-generation, low-income student of color motivated her commitment to help students with similar backgrounds who have a strong academic interest in science.
"I'm here because someone took an interest in me, and I want to do the same for others," she said.
Students in COAST will have access to academic support services that include tutoring, seminars with visiting scientists, academic counseling, and career-exploration activities. The students will be encouraged to take supplemental instruction courses that complement the general chemistry courses at Knox. In addition, a COAST study table will offer personalized attention to students and help them recognize that struggling with course material is a natural and important aspect of the learning process.
Each year, 30 to 50 first-year Knox students will be chosen as COAST candidates.
Six students from each year's group of COAST candidates will be chosen as COAST Scholars and will receive financial support in the form of scholarships worth about $10,000 each. The scholarships are renewable, meaning a COAST Scholar may receive up to $30,000 in scholarship funds during his or her time at Knox.
COAST Scholars will be invited to participate in teaching and research assistantships, summer research, graduate school preparatory programs, and other opportunities tailored to their academic and career goals.
The National Science Foundation awarded the highly competitive S-STEM grants after reviewing multiple factors. These included the strength of an institution's academic programs, the strength of its student-support structures, and evidence of a highly committed faculty and administration.