DCCC Joins NSF Grant Initiative to Increase Minorities in STEM Areas

Jennifer Comer

May 27, 2015 – Davidson County Community College, along with Central Piedmont and Guilford Technical community colleges, are recipients of a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop programs designed to boost the number of underrepresented minority students pursuing four-year degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject areas. CPCC leads the project for the North Carolina STEM Alliance.

Strategies to create stronger pipelines in high schools to earlier identify students interested in STEM majors and careers are in development by the three community colleges. The goal of the grant initiative is to increase by 50 percent the number of underrepresented minority students earning bachelor’s degrees through both transferable STEM-related community college programs and entry into STEM majors at four-year colleges and universities.

The grant period runs through January 2018.

“This is a great opportunity for minority students at DCCC who are interested in the STEM areas,” says Jennifer Comer, instructional liaison faculty at DCCC and co-principal investigator for the initiative. “The initiative involves all aspects of the campus community working toward the common goal of increasing the number of underrepresented minority students enrolling in STEM curriculum areas. In addition, we’ll work closely with outside agencies to offer ways for minority students to explore STEM careers and allow them to have opportunities to grow as they continue their educational journeys at baccalaureate granting institutions and enter these fields.”

Measures the grant will fund include STEM-focused mentoring, additional academic support, career-centered and proactive academic advising and financial support.

Bruce Johnson, associate dean of STEM at Central Piedmont who provides overall leadership for the effort, notes the three colleges included in the North Carolina STEM Alliance serve as leaders in refining the ways community colleges serve students.

“Through other initiatives, we have moved the needle relative to the improved progress and success of our students,” Johnson says. “However, as each college maintains a commitment toward making data-driven decisions, it’s apparent that a significant gap exists for our underrepresented minority student population.”

“This NSF-funded initiative positions us to expand the impact of existing successful projects, while further promoting growth to students needing enhanced support,” Johnson adds. “The skills gap seen in our region demands more college graduates in STEM-related fields. Ultimately, our communities will benefit as we improve the ability of our students to contribute to advances in the STEM arena.”

The National Science Foundation funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the United States.

Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is noted for its quality educational programs and services. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers studies in more than 50 degree programs. A fully accredited, multi-campus college, DCCC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 and is looking forward to serving students in Davidson and Davie counties for many years to come. The college is committed to developing minds, inspiring imaginations and preparing students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global environment. Visit Davidson County Community College at davidsonccc.edu.