PCC, in conjunction with California State University Los Angeles (CSULA), has been awarded more than $450,000 over three years for its work to provide at-risk students with specialized programs to help them succeed in STEM fields.

The STEM Education Consortium (SEC), and its subsequent FITW initiative which awarded PCC the grant, is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and is designed to support students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through plentiful resources and more highly individualized instruction from professors. Staff associated with STEM disciplines and FITW initiatives are provided training, as well as developmental resources such as the Investing in Innovation Fund and Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow.

The First in World Initiative (FITW) supplements the SEC by awarding universities grants to fund the furthering of instruction and retention of students in these fields.

PCC and CSULA applied for this grant last year, and the colleges are now being awarded for their participation in this program.

According to the department’s website, the 2015 FITW program included two competitions. The first was for Development, which awards colleges for piloting STEM programs and to test its strategies, while the second, Validation, awards grants to allow colleges to continue the use of these techniques in the classroom.

To fulfill the goals of this grant, PCC will be working with CSULA and other local universities to increase the transfer rate of students to continue their education and to “pursue study for transfer and eventually to pursue careers in STEM.”

The FITW Initiative will focus primarily on students coming from low-income backgrounds, students of color, students with disabilities, and first-generation students. However, all students are encouraged to explore classes in STEM fields to assess if they would like further pursue a degree.

According to Alex Boekelheide, executive director of strategic communications and marketing, PCC’s share in the STEM program is about $150,000 per year for three years. This money will be used to improve education in STEM areas of study and to budget for more personalized instruction for students.

Dr. Jessica Igoe, professor of microbiology, will be heading the STEM initiative at PCC, along with many other professors of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

PCC’s eSTEM website details upcoming projects, goals, opportunities and professors involved in the initiative.

The natural sciences department has already begun implementing the FITW initiative. Classes in astronomy, biology, chemistry, geography, geology, microbiology, physical sciences, physiology, and physics are all part of the STEM instruction.

By using the eSTEM website, students can find “roadmaps” to help them choose the right classes to successfully navigate a degree in STEM fields, such as biology, chemistry, geology and pre-health sciences.

Representatives from CSULA’s STEM program were unavailable for comment.






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