CSUF awarded $5.8 million federal grant for STEM education

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STEM students in Chem 422 work on a lab assignment in Dan Black Hall. Mark Filowitz, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics said he hopes this five-year grant for project RAISE will cater to low income and Latino students trying to transfer into these STEM programs.
(Roberto Muniz / Daily Titan)

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Cal State Fullerton a five-year $5.8 million grant for STEM education that started Oct. 1.

The grant goes toward Project RAISE, the Regional Alliance in STEM Education, which includes eight community colleges.

Cal State Fullerton is collaborating with Citrus, Cypress, Fullerton, Golden West, Mt. San Antonio, Orange Coast, Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon community colleges, according to interim dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Susamma Barua, Ph.D.

Mark Filowitz, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said the grant targets Hispanic and low-income students as CSUF, along with the participating community colleges, are all Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Filowitz said about 70 percent of Latino students start their careers in a community college and less than 10 percent go to a four-year to get their bachelor’s degree, and that’s a problem.

CSUF has been working with similar programs to Project RAISE, and there has been a gradual growth of participating community colleges with each program, according to Filowitz.

In 2008, a three-year $1.5 million program called TEST-UP was funded by the National Science Foundation, with Mt. San Antonio and Santa Ana community colleges participating, Filowitz said.

In 2011, a five-year $6 million HSI-STEM grant was awarded to go toward a program called (STEM)2 that had CSUF working with Citrus, Cypress and Santiago Canyon community colleges, Filowitz said.

Filowitz said that the amount of students transferring from a community college to a four-year has increased since 2011.

“The first cohort that we were able to actually measure was last year because they (students) had to be here a couple of years to graduate.” Filowitz said. “Over 80 percent of the students that were in the program did transfer to a four-year and are getting a bachelor’s degree.”

The last project resulted in over 175 students transferring to Cal State Fullerton, Barua said.
Project RAISE will offer priority registration, the summer research project, bilingual family orientation and peer-mentors.

The summer research project lasts for eight weeks, and allows 32 community college students the opportunity to work with Cal State Fullerton faculty and students, according to Barua.
Teddy Kidane, part-time faculty, lecturer for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has participated in the summer research project.

Kidane said the students he has been able to work with from the community colleges are “very good” and “very motivated” for the most part.

Some new components are a paid summer internship and a free open source program called Transferology.

Filowitz said they are working with the Orange County Business Council to offer paid summer internships so that students gain experience in the real world.

The summer internship will be 10 weeks and will have 30 students, Barua said.

Students will be trained through Transferology, which will help students know about the courses they have already taken that are accepted at Cal State Fullerton, Filowitz said.

“The goal is to develop enough convincing information so that the campus can eventually look toward institutionalizing these programs so we don’t have to wait for grants, (as they) are hard to get and you never know what’s going to happen,” Filowitz said.

Barua is co-principal investigator, and Maria Dela Cruz, who ran (STEM)2, will still serve as a consultant while remaining at Santa Ana college, Filowitz said.

Barua said there is assurance that Project RAISE will do well.

“We are very confident that this will be an extremely successful project, and we will be able to make a significant impact at all eight colleges,” Barua said.