The University of Toledo will lead the collaboration of four additional higher education institutions to create a unified program in renewable energy and sustainability to augment science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees thanks to a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the state’s premier Choose Ohio First Scholarship program. A match by the participating schools brings the total to more than $3 million.
“This program will pull together the combined resources of regional higher education to increase the recruitment, training and graduation of students in the STEM fields to help supply the rapidly growing job market in sustainable energy systems in northwest Ohio,” said Dr. Geoffery Martin, interim associate dean for the natural sciences and mathematics in the UT College of Arts and Sciences, and lead investigator of the project.
Martin said the grant represented some of the deepest collaboration between UT and grant partner Bowling Green State University, as well as enhancing relationships with Owens, Terra and Northwest State community colleges.
The program has a number of pieces designed to address STEM education in a holistic way.
A total of 158 students from the five schools will receive scholarships to cover tuition during the grant’s five-year run. Students also will participate in a bridge program in the academic investment in math and science the summer between high school and college at BGSU.
Martin said the bridge program is part of a broader mentoring effort by BGSU that has markedly improved the retention of students in the STEM fields; traditionally many students switch away from scientific majors during their college experience. By working with colleagues at BGSU, faculty at UT hope to enhance and extend the mentoring program led by the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women at UT that helps mentor and increase the number of women in STEM disciplines. Faculty at UT will in turn work with faculty at BGSU to enhance undergraduate research, giving BGSU students the opportunity to pursue undergraduate research projects in UT laboratories.
Additionally, the grant includes money to assist teachers pursing master’s degrees in scientific content areas.
“The Judith Herb College of Education has significant efforts in science education,” Martin said. “These scholarships will build on those efforts and that expertise and help to reach additional teachers.”
Martin said that by building teachers’ enthusiasm for science, renewable energy and sustainability, that excitement would be passed on to students. Ideally, he said, students would enter college more prepared and more aware of the scientific fields available to them.
“Northwest Ohio’s reputation in alternative energy is well-deserved. We just need to make sure the education institutions are doing their part to prepare the generation that will be responsible for the success and growth of these energy initiatives,” Martin said.
“In almost all of these scientific and engineering fields a graduate education is an important qualification. That’s a prospect that can sound overwhelming to a high school student or college freshman deciding on a major. This program will help provide students with better scientific literacy and through internships a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed in an industry that will need a highly educated work force,” Martin said.
He added that Dr. Tom Kvale, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Daryl Moorhead, professor of environmental sciences, and Charlene Gilbert, director of the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women, will play key roles in the program’s implementation.