SPC will use grant to fund STEM scholarships for women, minorities

Published Aug. 7, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Natural sciences faculty at St. Petersburg College are awaiting the arrival of a new core of STEM-focused students. With a $520,000 grant through the National Science Foundation, the college will provide up to 80 female and minority students access to scholarships.

Students seeking degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics at St. Petersburg College are eligible to receive a $6,500 scholarship by next spring. The scholarship for academically qualified, low-income students ensures that they can focus more on their degrees and developing careers.

"We really looked to how we could provide scholarships," said Jackie Skryd, executive director of grants development at SPC. "It really enhances all that we do at the college on a daily basis instead of a stand-alone program."

The National Science Foundation provided funding to SPC from 2007 to 2012 for the college's STEM programs. The previous grant provided for 152 students. About 60 percent of those were men. Only 12 percent overall were Hispanic, and 9 percent black. With a second round of funding, SPC wanted to provide scholarships to students in financial need and historically underrepresented.

"Often students that would like to pursue degrees in a science are financially unable," said John Chapin, dean of natural sciences.

Students eligible for the scholarship must have completed college algebra and at least one STEM course at St. Petersburg College and be enrolled full-time as a Pell grant recipient. With a federal Pell grant, the college scholarship covers any remaining student expenses, Skryd said.

The scholarship program provides for students to receive extended faculty support. The College Experience, a St. Petersburg College initiative, offers academic and career advising, access to tutors and career mentors. Campus Faculty Champions are selected within the STEM programs to provide students a "road map to graduation," with set academic and career goals.

"(Students) will have demonstrated an excitement about science and intent to become a science person," Chapin said. "It's just going to increase the opportunities for students to be placed in environments where they can practice what they're learning."

The college works to provide students access to careers quickly through partnerships with Tampa Bay area employers for internships and job shadowing. Students involved in the sciences have been placed in internships at C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center and worked with faculty on undergraduate research, Chapin said.

"It's more than just, we'll pay your tuition," Skryd said. "We really want you to have a relevant, real-world experience in the STEM area, so that you can really apply what you're learning."