COC receives $1.49 million for new STEM scholarship program

College of the Canyons

The National Science Foundation awarded College of the Canyons $1.49 million to fund a new scholarship program, which the college said will “increase retention, transfer and graduation rates among science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors in key student populations, including Black, Latinx, women, first-generation college students and low-income students.” 

The college announced the news on Tuesday. 

COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook said this grant represents the second such award COC has received this year. The grant, she said, “is a testament to our innovative spirit, academic excellence and commitment to student success.” 

“STEM-based industries are helping to lead the economic recovery from the pandemic, so this award comes at the perfect time,” Van Hook said in a prepared statement. “This funding provided by the grant will play a crucial role in helping College of the Canyons to eliminate barriers for students interested in entering these competitive and ever-evolving fields.” 

Scholarship-STEM Equity Alliance (SEA) Scholars program will launch in fall 2022, according to the college. COC said it will build upon its Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program “to improve access to academic preparation support and student services.” 

The SEA Scholars program will recruit, mentor and support academically talented STEM students pursuing degrees in biology, biological sciences, computer science, engineering, environmental science, mathematics and physics. 

Patricia Foley, the grant’s principal investigator and a chemistry professor at COC, said the grant will broaden opportunities for students to pursue STEM majors.  

“This award will help us create structures to provide our underrepresented students with the academic, social and financial capital that is necessary to pursue STEM careers,” she said in a prepared statement. 

During the six-year grant period, 100 STEM students will receive financial and academic resources, including scholarships of up to $10,000 over two years. Student scholars will participate in five cohorts of 20 students each, with the ultimate goal of completing an associate’s degree and joining the STEM workforce or transferring to a four-year university. 

Students will also engage with faculty members through mentoring relationships and participate in STEM career exploration activities. 
In addition, participating COC faculty will learn how to create inclusive, equitable and culturally responsive STEM classrooms, which is a proven approach for heightening STEM achievement among low-income, underrepresented and educationally disadvantaged students, the college’s statement said. 

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, issued an announcement about the National Science Foundation’s award to COC on Wednesday.  

“Ensuring our community has access to quality and affordable education is one of my top priorities. I am pleased that the National Science Foundation is investing in the College of the Canyons, located here in California’s 25th District,” Garcia, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a prepared statement. “This funding will help provide quality education to Californians in the 25th District who are on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career path. I thank the National Science Foundation for their investment in the next generation.”  

Garcia recently helped secure $1 million for COC within the FY 2022 Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations bill for the college’s machining production lab in its Advanced Technology Center. 

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