The U.S. Department of Education has awarded New Jersey City University (NJCU), New Jersey’s only four-year public Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), $9 million to enact a five-year plan that will enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs and bolster articulation programs with nearby community colleges, allowing students holding associate-level degrees to complete baccalaureate degrees in STEM programs at NJCU. The $9-million Title V award is the largest grant received to date by NJCU.
The grant will allow NJCU to focus on twin program goals: increasing the number of science majors and improving the persistence, retention, and graduation rates of science majors at the University.
In announcing the grant to the University community, Dr. Carlos Hernández, NJCU President, said, “Success in the STEM fields is critical to our nation’s future. This groundbreaking grant will allow NJCU to make a tremendous leap forward. It will provide community college graduates who hold associate’s degrees in the sciences with an innovative approach to learning that will enable more of them to earn baccalaureate degrees in STEM degree programs. That is an important goal for NJCU as an Hispanic-Serving Institution.”
The University will increase its enrollment of “completers” (associate’s degree-holding science majors) by improving and expanding capacity for teaching laboratory sciences; revising curriculum and aligning it within the University’s science departments, as well as with local community colleges from which NJCU science majors hold associate’s degrees; and standardizing and disseminating science department websites in order to increase student persistence and reduce curriculum-centered obstacles.
The program will ensure persistence, retention, and ultimately graduation by providing science-specific advisement for entering completer students; instituting a custom-designed online system that will track the academic progress of completer students as a group; offering supplemental instruction in upper-level science courses; and affording opportunities for completer students to participate in mentored research and scientific meetings.
Improving Mathematics Success for STEM Careers
NJCU and Hudson County Community College (HCCC) will collaborate on a cooperative project, “Opening the Gate: Improving Mathematics Success for STEM Careers,” which will address the significant problem related to students’ being unable to enroll in STEM majors because of failure or slow progress in early mathematics courses. The project will have the overarching goal of increasing the number of Hispanic students who graduate with STEM degrees.
Three major strategies will be employed. Pathways for transfers from HCCC will be improved through hiring an on-site NJCU transfer counselor, aligning mathematics courses across the two institutions, developing dual admission and dual enrollment programs, and creating seamless transfers through a model articulation program in STEM majors.
A comprehensive developmental mathematics program will be created with directors of developmental mathematics hired at both institutions to coordinate strategies and share data. Technology innovations will be used to teach mathematics. Faculty will use lecture-capturing technology to improve students’ work outside of class, and interactive multimedia software will be used during class to improve engagement and understanding. The use of online course support will also be increased. Intensive faculty development sessions and a summer institute in technology techniques and applications will be provided for all faculty in the program.
Data-based decision-making will be used each semester to analyze student progress and to ensure that strategies are working towards meeting project objectives.
Wide-reaching Technology Upgrades
The grant will allow NJCU to complete the construction and renovation of all laboratories at the University, half of which were renovated in 2008 through a federal grant. Campus-wide installation and upgrading of wireless networks will be completed at both NJCU and HCCC.
Improved classroom technology will include tablet PCs for classroom use, smart boards in classrooms, and lecture-capturing video devices. Science calculators and software will also be provided to students.
To ensure the future success of students at the University, over the next five years $1.2 million of the $9-million award will be designated for the NJCU Foundation endowment. The grant stipulates that the NJCU Foundation will match these funds with an additional $1.2 million over 20 years.
“It is significant that this grant will enable the University not only to graduate more Hispanic scientists but to enhance its offerings in science and math for future generations of students,” said Ruddys Andrade, associate vice president for academic affairs and project director of the grant. “The improvements to the science infrastructure on campus and the increase in the University endowment will benefit students for years to come.”
The grant will be funded through September 2016.