A Jackson State University project targeting at-risk and underrepresented students in STEM skills will receive a $300,000 boost from the National Science Foundation to support its work. According to JSU alumnus, Dr. Tim Turner, professor and chair of the Biology Department, “This funding will assist in our ongoing efforts to ensure that our students are fully prepared for flourishing careers in STEM fields. Their success is critical to America’s ability to compete on the world stage in the sciences.”
The grant, announced by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, was awarded to fund JSU’s Students Understanding Chemistry Concepts to Enhance STEM Skills project, known by an acronym that reflects its purpose—SUCCESS.
Turner explains that the project is designed to focus on biology majors and will enable them to successfully complete general and organic chemistry. The SUCCESS project will provide three-day Chemistry Readiness Workshops prior to the start of a course, and an additional two-hour SUCCESS session during each week of the semester. Ultimately, the goal is to diversify the STEM workforce. Turner will serve as the principal investigator (PI) for the project.
College of Science, Engineering and Technology Dean Richard Alo, said, “We are always mindful of our role in preparing the next generation of STEM leaders. Jackson State has a well-deserved reputation for producing students at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level who are fully capable of adding value as they join the ranks of corporate and government tech and research teams. This grant helps us continue to build a quality workforce by developing a quality product.”
How these interventions promote student success will be documented, and the knowledge gained will complement successful approaches to undergraduate instruction across multiple stem disciplines.
Data from the intervention groups will be compared to historical data and evaluated to determine whether these strategies: (a) improve attendance in chemistry classes, (b) decrease drop/fail/withdraw rates, (c) improve students’ conceptual understanding of chemistry, and (d) improve student retention. Results will be disseminated in biology and chemistry education conferences and associated proceedings.
Co-PIs for the SUCCESS project include: Dr. Barbara Howard, assistant professor in the Department of Professional Interdisciplinary Studies, School of Lifelong Learning, College of Education and Human Development; Dr. Ashton Hamme, professor and interim chair of the Department of Chemistry; Dr. Naomi Campbell, associate professor, Department of Chemistry; and Dr. Barbara Graham, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Biology. The external evaluator will be Dr. ConSandra McNeil, professor of sociology and assistant chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology at JSU.
Overall, this project will contribute to what is known about promoting student success in STEM with at-risk and under-represented students.