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Mercy College Awarded $4.9 Million Grant from U.S. Department of Education to Educate a More Diverse Workforce in STEM Fields

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Grant Will Prepare Hispanic and Low-Income Students for Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Mercy College today announced it has been awarded a new grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) under the agency’s Title III Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) STEM and Articulation Program. Funding for the five-year project, known as STEM Ready, is expected to total $4,928,344. Dr. Stuart Sidle, dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Mercy College, is project director.

The grant will support Mercy College in developing and carrying out activities to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students attaining degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Funding for the first year of the grant, which commenced on October 1, 2021, is $973,237, which will repeat annually for four more years. Dr. Stuart Sidle, dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Mercy College, is project director.

“We are thrilled to be selected for this award. This funding will allow us to develop interventions specifically designed to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students seeking four-year degrees in highly desirable and much-needed STEM fields,” said Sidle. “Mercy College now has an even greater opportunity to support STEM-related industries, which stand to benefit from greater diversity in their talent pool. As we at Mercy College know well, diversity helps drive innovation.”

The grant also establishes a partnership between Westchester Community College (WCC) and Mercy College, both of which are HSIs and four-year institutions with academic programs in STEM fields. The partnership enables Hispanic and low-income students completing their associate degree at WCC to enter Mercy College as STEM majors.

Throughout the five years of the grant, the College will focus on four innovative activity areas for implementing the STEM Ready Program. These activities are designed to significantly improve student engagement and success aimed at raising retention rates, supporting students in maintaining good academic standing and improving graduation rates.

  1. Course Redesign for Project-Based Learning in STEM will develop interdisciplinary curricula, a high-impact approach to learning that enables students to incorporate concepts and skills learned from other disciplines. Curricula will also focus on project-based learning, a solution-focused educational approach that prepares students to solve complex real-world problems by applying skills learned in the classroom.
  2. Faculty and Peer Mentor Development in Metacognition. Metacognitive processes are the critical thinking skills necessary to plan, monitor and evaluate one’s own understanding and performance in learning. This activity will include formal training elements that will infuse curricula with metacognitive teaching and mentoring practices for faculty and near-peer mentors.
  3. Development of a Mercy College/Westchester Community College (WCC) Transfer Pipeline that will enable Hispanic and low-income students completing their associate degree at WCC to enter Mercy College as STEM majors for improved student outcomes and attainment of four-year degrees.
  4. STEM Workplace Academy will focus on improving the rate of transfers from WCC to Mercy as well as graduation rates for transfer students, factoring in the needs of today’s employers to ensure students gain the skills and knowledge they need for successful employment.

“Among the activities funded by this grant are those that focus on training faculty and staff in skills that will help them better engage and retain Hispanic and low-income students in STEM programs,” said Sidle. “These skills will help us all become more effective educators and providers of the support services our students need.” The grant will also support Mercy’s role in handling administrative details, including model transfer agreements, which govern the use of materials that may emerge from grant activities, and articulation agreements that detail the processes for transferring completed credits earned at another college prior to transfer.

Sidle will be supported by an interdisciplinary team of activity Directors. They include Dr. Devdutta Deb, assistant professor of Biology; Dr. Cheng (Jeff) Chang, assistant professor of Mathematics; Dr. Renée Haskew-Layton, assistant professor and program director of Biology; Dr. Mary Knopp Kelly, associate professor of Psychology; Dr. Usman Rauf, assistant professor of Cybersecurity; Dr. Rebecca Trenz, associate professor of Psychology and program director of Graduate Psychology; and Dr. Julia Zavala, assistant professor of Psychology.