NSF Grant Puts S-STEM Students on Transfer Pathways

dr kumar speaking in front of a projection

Sixteen student scholars and eight faculty advisors make up the current S-Stem Cohort. This cohort is made possible by a grant of $850,000 awarded to Minneapolis College from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) scholastic and career opportunities for talented, low-income students.

Minneapolis College is in the third year of this initiative, which includes collaboration with other Higher Ed institutions. The project, “Collaborative Research: Partnership Pathways to Improve the Professional Preparation of Low-Income Students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Minnesota,” at Minneapolis College is led by Director/Principal Investigator (PI), Renu Kumar, Ph.D. (Biology Faculty Member) with support from Co-PI, Carmen Buhler (Math Faculty Member).

“This collaborative project contributes to a national commitment to advance well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians. Undergraduate research and internship experiences provided in Transfer Pathways support professional development through cross-institutional partnerships and workforce development programs,” explained Program Director Renu Bhagat Kumar, Ph.D.

In addition to the financial support of $3,750 per semester, students participating in the initiative receive support from faculty mentors, academic advisors and are exposed to deeper knowledge of STEM fields, undergraduate research, and internship opportunities. Minneapolis College team members (PI Kumar, co-PI Buhler, faculty mentors and academic advisors) with support of Dean Weng developed a framework to support student scholars by engaging them in STEM related activities that moves them from mentoring to advising to facilitate transfer process. 

Collaborations with other PRISM (Partner Relationships to Increase STEM Momentum) institutions (Augsburg University, Normandale and Century College) resulted in improved transfer opportunities to bachelor’s degree programs.

NSF Mentors
NSF Mentors, Fall 2023

“Scholars in the NSF STEM scholarship blossom as they begin to see themselves in a STEM field career. Besides receiving money, each scholar is paired with a faculty mentor and is encouraged by their cohort and STEM meetings. They also can participate in undergraduate internships.,” said co-PI Carmen Buhler.

To date, 50 STEM student scholars have participated in the program at Minneapolis College. This semester there are seven new students in the program. 


What STEM Scholars say about the program:

“My experience with the NSF program as a STEM student has been a positive impact on continuing my education at Minneapolis College and looking at transferring to a four-year degree institution. Besides relieving the financial burden, the program has helped me with resources that positively impact my career goals. The support I get from my mentor, adviser and the NSF program directors have helped me have a positive college experience.” -Anthony Giron

“STEM has been essential in my college career. I was told by someone unsupportive to not even consider getting a PhD let alone a master's or even a bachelor's because of my disabilities. It really cut into my self-esteem to hear this from someone I had considered a good friend for years.

It was Dr. Kumar, one of the directors of our STEM program, who helped me realize I need to quit worrying about what others think and to go for it. Brian Huilman, now my mentor, helped me realize my potentials and helped me hone my energy towards something constructive long before he became my mentor." - Jill K Freivalds

“The program has helped me become more organized and focused. It also has made me care about my education and believe I can accomplish a lot as long as I continue to stay organized and focused.” - Michael Asomoah 
Note: Michael is successfully transferred to Metro State University and is continuing his Baccalaureate degree. 

NSF S-STEM Scholars, Fall 2023
NSF S-STEM Scholars, Fall 2023

Earlier this semester, the S-STEM team at Minneapolis College hosted the first annual STEM Transfer Pathway Workshop bringing together students, staff, and faculty from multiple institutions in support of seamless transfer for STEM students to bachelor's degree programs. Faculty mentors participated and learned practical information to help support their students in the transfer process. 

Panelists from Hamline University, Augsburg University, Bemidji State University, Metro State University, and St. Cloud University provided insight into the transfer process at their respective institutions. This workshop provided a platform for scholars to interact with faculty, advisors and transfer specialists from different institutions and build community.

The NSF STEM project contributes to the national commitment to advance students in STEM studies. With much of the financial burden of education alleviated, doors are opened for these high achieving students allowing them to earn degrees and ultimately work in satisfying careers. 

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