A $4.9 million grant to Michigan State University will directly impact low-income students hoping to begin a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) education at Washtenaw Community College.

MSU announced the funding from the National Science Foundation on January 12. It is earmarked to offer financial assistance to low-income students at WCC and Mott Community College in Flint who transfer to MSU’s College of Natural Science to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

“Many academically talented students from a low-income background enroll at a community college with the hope of one day transferring to a college or university for a bachelor’s degree,” Jerry Caldwell, director of MSU’s Charles Drew Science Scholars program, said in a release. “Many aspire to a science or science-related career. Supporting these students is essential to broadening participation in science and to diversifying the science and technical workforce.”

At WCC, the programming and scholarships will be administered by the college’s STEM Scholars Program, which begins in the Fall 2018 semester following intensive summer preparation sessions.

The WCC STEM Scholars Program also oversees other STEM-focused scholarship programs, including the Michigan Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (MI-LSAMP). That program involves the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State, Western Michigan, Mott and WCC encouraging and supporting historically underrepresented minorities to enter STEM fields.

Susan Dentel, a Life Sciences faculty member and co-principle investigator of the grants at WCC, said plans for the WCC STEM Scholars Program are to select a cohort of up to 20 students each year who will be offered mentoring and support through their two years of full-time study at WCC and throughout their time at the four-year institution of their choosing. Funding for the program will be available for at least five years.

“Our comprehensive bridge program will assist students with the development of academic and social skills that are so essential for success at a university,” Dentel said. “We intend to walk hand-in-hand with our cohort students for the long haul, right up to the acquisition of a bachelor’s degree.”

Along with scholarship funding opportunities, members of the program will participate in summer research experiences and internships and will benefit from the connections with four-year institutions in the alliance. l